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FOR RELEASE: December 13, 2001
CONTACT: Dick Gunn

ATV Injuries on the Rise Locally

A recent rash of serious injuries involving all-terrain vehicles or ATVs has led safety advocates to believe that many parents and children are unaware of how to prevent such injuries.

"ATVs aren't toys. They're miniature vehicles," says Martha Collar, coordinator of the Oklahoma SAFE KIDS Coalition, a program of the Oklahoma State Department of Health. "The ATV manufacturers do not recommend them for riders under age 16."

According to Judy Higgins, trauma coordinator for University Hospital, in the last six months there have been 20 major injuries, including 12 deaths, involving children under the age of 16 due to incidents involving ATVs.

Perhaps no one is more familiar with this trend than Dirk "Kader" Bagwell of Altus, who was 15 when the ATV he was riding fell back on him and crushed his face. "It was the day before Thanksgiving last year. Me and a friend were riding down an irrigation canal and when we went to leave, going uphill, it fell back on me and landed on my face," said Kader.

Fortunately, Kader's friend wasn't injured and ran for help. A long, tough drive to Oklahoma City followed where Dr. Kevin Smith was able to repair Kader's face. After a two-week hospital stay, Kader was discharged. Kader's experience might be considered typical.

In a recent memorandum, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports a statistically significant increase in the estimated number of injuries for 1999, the most recent year data is available. This represents an increase of about 20 percent from 1998. The increase in injuries occurred across all age categories and cannot be explained by an increase in ATVs in use.

Children under the age of 16 accounted for about 40 percent of the total of estimated ATV-related deaths and injuries from January 1, 1985 through December 31, 1999. While there was a general decline from the late 1980s through the early 1990s, a gradual increase in both deaths and injuries has occurred since that time, the memo reports.

The CPSC memo noted that of the total U.S. fatalities of 3,716 for this time period, 35 percent involved children less than 16 years of age while 15 percent involved children under the age of 12. The top five states reporting ATV related deaths for this same period were California, Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, and Texas. Oklahoma was ranked 30th, with 44 deaths reported.

The percent of fatalities reported involving four-wheel ATVs increased from 7 percent or less prior to 1985 to 90 percent for 1999. That's largely because most ATVs currently in use are four-wheel vehicles; three-wheel ATVs are no longer manufactured and sold as new, though you can still legally buy a used three-wheeler from dealers and other sources.

The CPSC warns that young people under the age of 16 should never operate an adult-size ATV (over 90cc engine size). To help adult riders avoid injuries and deaths with ATVs, the CPSC also recommends:

Take a hands-on training course offered by certified instructors.

Always wear a helmet and other protective equipment.

Do not carry passengers.

Do not ride on paved roads or use alcohol.

So, how's Kader doing today? "I got 11 plates in the bones of my face, a supportive net under one eye and an artificial eye for the other. It was pretty painful," he says now. "But my parents say they can't tell the difference between my 'old' face and my 'new' one."

And does he still ride his ATV? "Well, I sold mine after the accident. But I still ride my friends', usually when I'm hunting. But I'm real wary about it now."


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