Child-ATV accidents spike sharply

JOHNS HOPKINS (US) — Children hospitalized with injuries sustained in all-terrain vehicle accidents more than doubled in the U.S. from 1997 to 2006.

The increase—150 percent among all children—was even sharper in some age and geographic groups, and was most dramatic in the South and Midwest, and among teens aged 15 to 17.

While males between 15 and 17 had the highest rate of ATV hospitalization, females 15 to 17 experienced the most dramatic increase over the study’s time period, a rise of 250 percent.

The study is published in the October issue of the Journal of Trauma.

“All-terrain vehicles are inherently dangerous to children,” says Stephen M. Bowman, assistant professor with the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Johns Hopkins University and the report’s lead author.

“While manufacturers are required to label vehicles with engine sizes greater than 90cc as inappropriate for children younger than 16, our data indicate that a growing number of children are receiving serious injuries due to ATV use, suggesting that parents are unaware of these recommendations or are choosing to ignore them.”

In 1988, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the ATV industry entered into a decade-long consent decree to reduce the risk of injury associated with ATV use.

Provisions included a ban on the sale of three-wheeled ATVs, a free nationwide training program for all ATV purchasers, improved safety labeling, and a public awareness campaign.

The consent decree expired in 1998 and its provisions have continued by some manufacturers on a voluntary basis.

While previous studies have examined the impact of the expiration of the consent decree between the CPSC and the ATV industry immediately following its termination, this is the first study to examine whether rates of ATV-injury hospitalizations have continued to increase.

“Clearly, too many children are being injured on these vehicles,” says Mary E. Aitken, professor of pediatrics with the Arkansas Children’s Hospital and a co-author of the report.

“Given the dramatic increases in hospitalization that we report, a renewed effort by the public health community, the ATV industry and the CPSC to address this problem is warranted.”

Researchers analyzed hospital discharge data from the Kids’ Inpatient Database of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, which is sponsored by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Injury Severity Scores, a widely accepted measure of injury severity, were calculated for each hospitalization. Results showed that all types of injury (minor, moderate, and major) increased over the study time period, with rates for hospitalizations with moderate to severe traumatic brain injury tripling during the study time period.

“In our study, 30 percent of patients hospitalized for ATV-related injuries had a diagnosis of traumatic brain injury,” Bowman says.

“Increasing helmet use through a combination of policy and education is critical to curbing the increasing trend in ATV-related hospitalizations among children.”

Support for the research came from the Arkansas Biosciences Institute.

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