A friend of mine recently had an accident on an ATV (all terrain vehicle). He suffered a couple of broken bones and several bad bruises and it will be 6 weeks or so before he is fully recovered. It could have been much worse.
I have never been a fan of ATVs and never let my children ride them. Most people take them for granted and treat them as a toy and source of entertainment for themselves and their children. I have seen children turned loose in the woods near my house, riding on adult ATVs with no supervision. If they were to have an accident, it would be some time before their parents realized they were missing and then it would take awhile to find them. The same goes for golf carts and other types of farm vehicles known as gators and mules. Children don't treat these vehicles with respect and unknowingly take risks. Earlier this year, a couple of girls suffered broken bones when their golf cart overturned while riding down a steep hill in their neighborhood. Another teen who lived near me was thrown from his ATV because he was going too fast. He suffered a broken back.
I never cease to be amazed when parents let children operate such vehicles. They are not toys and should not be used as such by immature, thrill seeking children. But back to ATVs specifically. In 2009, there were 376 deaths and 131,900 ER visits tied to ATV accidents. Kids were involved in 32,400 of these accidents and 61 died. In fact, the risk of serious injury to kids from an ATV accident is 61% higher than in football. Rollovers are the most common accident involving ATVs and children are easily pinned or crushed beneath their weight.
If you and your family still feel like riding ATVs, here are some basic safety rules. Number one - GET TRAINED. Every rider should take a course on operating and using an ATV. Two - Always wear a proper helmet, long pants and sturdy boots. Three - Don't ride double. Children should not ride with another adult or child. ATVs are controlled in part by body weight so an extra rider could throw off the driver. Four - Children should never ride adult sized vehicles. Buy an appropriately sized one. Five - Don't operate an ATV while drinking. This should be a no brainer but many accidents are a result of alcohol. Six - Don't ride alone and always supervise children.
If you use your ATV for work and hauling, make sure you know how to properly load it so it is balanced. ATVs tip and rollover easily so make sure the weight is distributed in a balanced manner. Once again, don't work alone when using such equipment or at least make sure someone knows where you are and when you will be finished. My friend was using his ATV for work but had someone else along who was able to call for help.
Think twice before treating these machines so casually. The life you save could be your child's.