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North Florida Teens Injured On ATV

Posted on October 4, 2008

This week a couple of teens riding an all-terrain vehicle in Baker County, smashed into a tree after losing control of the ATV on a dirt road.

They were both in serious condition; neither of them wore a helmet according to the Florida Highway Patrol. 17-year-old Michael Jewel of Sanderson was driving. The passenger was Thomas Harvey, 17, of Glen St. Mary.

Riders and passengers of ATVs frequently suffer spinal cord injuries as they dive over the handlebars.

Parents seem sharply divided on the issue of ATVs. Some believe their kids can handle the freedom; others ban them, or insist on matching a child to the machine with supervision. Others don’t believe 17-year-old boys can be taught anything.

ATV accidents killed at least 555 people in 2006 at least 100 children among them, according to government safety officials. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates another 146,000 people were treated in emergency rooms for ATV-injuries that year, more than a quarter of them children.

In Florida, at least 71 kids under the age of 16 died from 1982 to 2002. More recent statistics are not complete. Florida riders under the age of 16 are required to wear a helmet and eye protection.

An ATV is a vehicle that travels on four low-pressure tires, with a seat and handlebars. It’s designed to handle mountain terrain, and other environments off-street.

There is no cage around the rider who sits and rides like a motorcycle. The speed can go up to 80 mph or higher depending on the engine. ATVs are associated with trespassing, land defacement, erosion and noise and dust pollution. Engines range from 49 cc to 1,000.

ATVs are supposed to carry a label from the manufacturer telling consumers that machines greater than 90 cc should not be attempted by riders under the age of 12. This is a recommendation only.

The industry says ATVs have never been shown to be an unsafe product, but there is little to keep a child safe during a rollover when they are thrown from the vehicle. Then there is the issue that many youngsters ride adult-size ATVs which are too big for them.

Dealers are not supposed to sell ATVs to parents who will allow children to ride them, but that is an unverifiable system.

A couple of years ago, national pediatrician and consumer groups called on the commission to ban the sale of adult size ATVs for children under 16 because the machines were too big and fast for the young drivers. The agency decided not to change its policy when its director of compliance, a former lawyer for the ATV industry said the system of voluntary compliance was working.

Many at the CPSC have quit in disgust when, facing a shrinking budget, they try to regulate industries that appear to be calling the shots. One woman in a poison prevention expert said “there is only so much that a few people there can do.”

Many inside say the prevailing attitude is that business can regulate itself. But we’ve all seen lately what happens when industries are in charge of regulating themselves. We hope these young men fully recover- our best to them and their families. #