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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
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Deceptively Dangerous: ATVs Too Much For Kids To Handle

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The tragic deaths of two young boys in a rural town in California have renewed questions about ATV safety. Investigators said a 5-year-old was driving a gas-powered 50cc child-sized all-terrain vehicle around his parent’s property with his 3-year-old friend riding on the back. Their dads were doing yard work at the time. One of the men became concerned when he realized he no longer heard the ATVs motor. The men went searching for the boys and spotted a helmet floating on the surface of a pond on the property. The boys were pulled from below the surface; CPR was administered. The boys were then transported to the hospital where they were pronounced dead within an hour.

An investigation by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) is focusing on how the boys ended up in the pond and how well they were being supervised by an adult while riding.

At this point the incident has been declared an accident, but there are many unanswered questions. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) said they will be looking at everything. How did the boys end up at the pond? Did the 5-year-old lose control? How did they get out of sight of parental supervision?

While California laws mandate adult supervision of children and a safety certificate for ATVs driven by someone younger than 14, there are no specific rules for riding on private property in California. In rural California, many families and their children enjoy using these big toys in their backyards.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 150 children die in ATV-related accidents each year. Of those, more than 40 percent are younger than 12. Children under 6 should never be on an ATV, said the CPSC. In fact, most ATVs are labeled with a recommended minimum age of six. As a result, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discourages kids ages 16 or younger from driving or riding on ATVs.

As much fun as a child may have on this type of vehicle, ATV’s are not toys; they are powerful and potentially dangerous vehicles. Safely operating an ATV requires the driver to make quick decisions, such as speeding up or slowing down in response to changes in the environment. Kids are unlikely to be able to make these choices or have the skills to react to obstacles such as a pond.

This tragic accident serves as a reminder that children and ATVs do not go together. Simply put, if your child cannot drive a car, he or she does not yet have the skill to drive an all-terrain vehicle. If you still allow your child to drive or ride on an ATV, keep your child safe with these tips from the CPSC:

Stay Off of Paved Roads. ATVs are designed to be driven on off-road terrain and are difficult to control on paved roads where they are at risk of overturning or colliding with cars and trucks.

Don’t Allow More People on the Vehicle Than It Was Designed to Carry. A single-rider ATV should only have one person on it — the driver.

Always Wear a Helmet and Other Protective Gear. CPSC and the ATV Safety Institute recommend U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and/or the Snell Memorial Foundation (Snell) certified helmets. Riders should also wear goggles, gloves, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and over-the-ankle boots.

Get Hands-On Training. CPSC recommends that all ATV drivers — adults and children — take a hands-on ATV safety course from a qualified instructor. Hands-on training can give experienced and first-time riders the skills to handle multiple riding situations that can happen in off-road conditions.

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.