All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are associated with a significant and increasing number of hospitalizations for children in the United States, according to a new report by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Over a 9-year period (1997 to 2006) hospitalizations for ATV injuries increased 150% among youth younger than 18 years, with important demographic variations. Rates increased the most dramatically in the South and Midwest, and among teens ages 15 to 17. While males between 15 and 17 years have the highest rate of ATV hospitalization, females ages 15 to 17 experienced the sharpest rise in ATV hospitalizations during the study period, an increase of 250%.
“All-terrain vehicles are inherently dangerous to children,” Stephen M. Bowman, PhD, MHA, assistant professor with the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy and the report’s lead author, stated in a press release. “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 (CPSC) and representatives of the ATV industry entered into a decade-long consent decree to reduce the risk of injury associated with ATV use. This consent decree expired in 1998 and is continued by only 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,” Mary E. Aitken, MD, MPH, professor of pediatrics with the Arkansas Children’s Hospital and a co-author of the report, stated in the release. “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.”
The researchers analyzed hospital discharge data from the Kid’s Inpatient Database (KID) of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project. Injury Severity Scores were calculated for each hospitalization. Results showed that all types of injury — minor, moderate and major —increased throughout the study period, with rates for hospitalizations with moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injury tripling during the study period.