September 20, 2005
Physician, parents urge ATV caution
By Susan Christensen
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—Four-wheelers should come with a forewarning.
That’s the philosophy of Dr. Michael Winkelmann, a Methodist Rehabilitation Center physician who well knows the dangers of the popular all-terrain vehicles.
During a recent five-month period, 17-year-old Brock Archuleta of Richland was just the first of five Mississippi teenagers admitted to Methodist following devastating four-wheeler wrecks. Four suffered spinal cord injuries, while one was left with a traumatic brain injury.
Five victims in five months sounds fluky, but Winkelmann said it’s actually business as usual. Since 2000, Methodist has treated a dozen people with spinal cord injuries and an untold number with brain injuries—all related to ATVs.
”It seems like every month I have at least one patient who has had an accident on an all-terrain vehicle,” he said. “They are usually younger individuals who have a lack of respect for the dangers of these vehicles.”
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that there were 125,500 ATV-related injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms in 2003, an increase of about 10 percent over the previous year. About 31 percent of the injured were under age 16, an alarming stat that has several consumer groups advocating tough laws for ATV users.
The family of brain injury victim Matt Moorehead of Pascagoula is among those joining the chorus. “Helmets should be a requirement (for ATV users)—no ifs, ands or buts about it,” said Matt’s grandmother Jimmie Hanning of Pascagoula.
“There should be an age limit, too,” said his mom Liz Moorehead. “And when you get an ATV, you should be certified and go through a class once a year for safety. I also don’t think you should be on an ATV on the road. I think you should be in the woods.”
It’s also important to use the vehicle “for what it’s designed for,” said Archuleta, who began riding ATVs as a young boy. His accident occurred as he did some recreational cruising on an ATV outfitted for hunting. As he tried to jump a hill, the vehicle’s heavy front end nose dived. Archuleta was tossed over the handlebars and wound up with a compound fracture in his fifth cervical vertebra.
Age 19 at the time of his accident, Matt also was a veteran ATV rider. And he, too, suffered the consequences of piloting an unfamiliar four-wheeler.
After spending the day readying a Greene County hunting camp for deer season, Matt obligingly agreed to drive a friend’s winch-equipped ATV back to camp for him. “He didn’t know to make sure the winch was locked into place,” his mom said. The winch cable locked up one of the ATV’s wheels, spilling Matt—who wasn’t wearing a helmet—headfirst onto a hard asphalt road.
As serious as Matt and Archuleta’s injuries were, it could have been much worse. From January 1, 1982 to Dec. 31, 2003, a reported 5,791 people (178 of them Mississippians) were killed in ATV accidents.
It’s those dismal stats—and the heartache he sees firsthand—that has made Winkelmann a staunch advocate for steering children away from ATVs. “I’ve seen so many injuries with absolutely dismal outcomes, I won’t let my kids on a four-wheeler,” he said.
ATV Safety Rules
- Always wear a helmet and other protective gear.
- Never ride on public roads.
- Never ride under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
- Never carry a passenger on a single-rider vehicle.
- Ride an ATV that’s right for your age—under 70cc for ages 6 and under, 70cc to 90cc for ages 12 and older and over 90cc for ages 16 and older.
- Supervise riders younger than 16.
- Ride only on designated trails at a safe speed.
- Take an ATV RiderCourse; call toll-free 1-800-887-2887 for information on available classes.
Source: ATV Safety Institute