The vehicles, which can weigh up to 1,000 pounds, are most popular
with rural kids, researchers found, but those are also the users
least likely to wear a helmet, putting them at higher risk for
serious injury, the study authors say.
Finding ways to convey the importance of safe practices to kids and
their parents should be a priority, they emphasize in their report.
“Helmets are very important. Helmet non-use among youth is a
particular concern because these riders have a greater likelihood of
crashing than adults, and their likelihood of dying or sustaining a
serious TBI is much higher,” said Bethany West, an epidemiologist at
the CDC in Atlanta and coauthor of the study.
“We found that the most frequent riders had the lowest consistent
helmet use,” West told Reuters Health.
U.S. Olympic Swimmer Amy Van Dyken, 41, was left paralyzed after
severing her spine in an ATV accident last month (see Reuters story
of June 18, 2014, here: http://reut.rs/V9fl3d).
In 2011, an estimated 29,000 children were hospitalized because of
ATV-related injuries, according to a U.S. Consumer Product Safety
Commission report. More than 10 million ATVs are in use in the
United States, the same study says.
The previous year, researchers found that serious injuries in ATV
crashes were 50% more likely to be deadly than comparable injuries
among motorcycle riders (see Reuters Health story of October 26,
2010, here: http://reut.rs/1mGKLUj).
The last study to assess helmet use among young ATV riders was in
2001, according to West, so she and Ruth Shults of the CDC’s
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control thought it was
time for an update.
They analyzed responses to a 2011 online survey of 831 kids between
the ages of 12 and 17 about their health-related beliefs and
behaviors. Among the questions, children were asked how often they
rode ATVs and whether they "always" or "not always" wore helmets
One quarter of the kids said they had ridden an ATV in the past
year. Of those, twice as many lived outside a major metropolitan
area, according to the results published online June 10 in the
journal Injury Prevention.
Only 45% of kids who had ridden in the past year said they always
wore a helmet and 25% said they never did. Among the kids who had
ridden six or more times in the past year, 8 in 10 said they didn’t
always wear a helmet.
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The survey participants may not perfectly represent their age group
nationwide, the authors caution, but they do “closely approximate”
the U.S. census population, so the results do provide an estimate of
how many kids are using ATVs and how they’re using them.
That knowledge could help in crafting safety messages that will
reach kids and their parents, and possibly lead to changes in ATV
design that could also improve safety, the authors write.
“Helmet use is important to prevent brain injuries,” said Amy Artuso,
a program manager at the National Safety Council who was not
involved in the study. “While broken bones can typically be healed,
brain injuries are much harder to recover from, if recovery is
Inconsistent helmet use is a well-known problem among American
youth. Recent research has found that children often refuse to wear
the protective head gear.
“Just like any new driver, children are less experienced,” Artuso
said. “They’re not as strong physically. It increases their risk for
It's important to read the labels on the helmets and purchase a
quality helmet, Artuso added.
“Parents are key in making sure their children have a helmet that
fits properly and getting their child to agree to wear it every time
they ride,” West said. Adults should also act as good role models by
always wearing helmets, she said.
Injury Prevention 2014.
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