Maryland Motorcycle Injury Update: Lack of Helmet Use by Kids Riding ATVs Blamed for Pediatric Injuries

We’ve covered instances of children being hurt in motor vehicle accidents before in this forum; and that includes motorcycles and four-wheel off-road vehicles (ORVs). The fact of the matter is that riding a bike — regardless of whether it has two, three or four wheels — is not the same as piloting or being an occupant in a passenger car, city bus, taxi cab or limousine. Quite frankly, motorcycles may be fun and invigorating, but their operation also requires a great deal of concentration and respect for the inherent dangers associated with these vehicles.

As Baltimore motorcycle accident attorneys, not to mention personal injury lawyers, we have the skills and training to represent riders of Honda, Yamaha, Harley-Davidson and Kawasaki motorbikes and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) who may have been injured as a result of a traffic accident. Furthermore, we are always understanding of the families who may have lost a loved one as a result of a motorcycle wreck, either here in Maryland or over in the District.

Sadly, some accidents involving bikers do qualify as cases of wrongful death due to the negligence of another driver. Unlike the occupants of a car, sport utility vehicle (SUV) or commercial delivery truck, injuries sustained by a motorcyclist can easily be fatal in nature. These would include severe injury to crucial internal organs, spinal cord separation, and closed-head trauma (also known as traumatic brain injury).

While adults are free to make their own choices, children are under more scrutiny by parents and legal guardians. As traffic accident lawyers, we can only point out that many children every year are being hurt or killed while riding the family ATV under the supposed supervision of their parents. Sadly, the mere act of supervising a child doesn’t necessarily mean that the boy or girl will not be hurt anyway.

Accidents can happen in a blink of an eye. While many will choose not to heed this simple warning, it only takes one close call to make a convert out of formerly lackadaisical parents. In their defense, one could say that we all believe to some extent our kids have the necessary skill sets and physical capabilities to operate a small gas-powered vehicle with no danger to themselves. However, every year dozens of kids prove their parents wrong in this regard.

We bring this up mainly because of the findings published in a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which states that almost one-third of ATV accidents involve minor children. Another study, presented as recently as last November at a national gathering of the American Academy of Pediatrics, strongly suggests that lack of helmet use — as well as multiple occupants — by children on ATVs only adds to the injuries sustained by kids every year.

In one study, a researcher and his colleagues from the University of Iowa investigated almost 350 ATV-related injury accidents from 2002 to 2009. The study found that fewer than one-fifth of the riders in each of those cases was actually wearing a helmet. And although children were, in fact, more likely to be wearing a helmet that adults, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, of those who were hurt as a result of a crash, 80 percent were male and 30 percent were children 16 years of age or under.

Calling the trend of ATV-related accidents an epidemic, experts presenting at the conference suggested one of the biggest factors in increased rate of ATV injuries can be attributed to the increased size, weight and speed of these off-road vehicles — according to reports, some ATVs weigh more than 800 pounds and are easily capable of 80mph or more.

Rollovers are apparently an increasing danger, according to researchers. Based on comments from one of the studies, the 15 “adult-sized” ATVs that were examined had seat lengths from 22 to 35 inches long. Researchers noted that when traveling downhill (a common occurrence when riding off-road, we might add) the rider must fully extend his or her arms and by doing so position themselves toward the rear of the seat just to avoid a rollover condition.

The same study strongly suggests that avoiding a rollover when going up hill requires the same approach but in reverse; essentially leaning forward so as to position one’s self ahead of the rear tires in order to prevent a backward rollover. Shorter seats were suggested, if only to discourage multiple riders on a singe vehicle.

As observers, we can only say that any injury involving a child is unacceptable, especially in cases where it could have been prevented in the first place. Obviously, it goes without saying that any death of child or an adult, as a result of an ATV wreck is highly regrettable and steps to eliminate any intrinsic dangers posed by these and other motor vehicles should be investigated and corrected before any more families are exposed to such tragic events.

Lack of helmets, multiple riders contribute to pediatric ATV injuries,, November 1, 2011

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