Severe trauma to the head and spine resulting from all-terrain vehicle (ATV) accidents are increasing dramatically according to research released today from the University of Utah Department of Neurosurgery. The research, to be published in the journal Neurosurgery, highlights the need for efforts to improve ATV stability, increase helmet use, and greater efforts to train riders in safe operation of the vehicles.
According to the research by neurosurgeons Joel MacDonald, MD and Michael Finn, MD, there were approximately 1,117,000 emergency room visits and 495 deaths due to ATV injuries nationwide in 2001, increases of 211% and 159% respectively over 1993. The estimated national costs of ATV-associated injuries are $3.24 billion annually.While injuries due to accidents occur in all age groups, children and youths (
Because their wheelbase is short relative to the height of the vehicle and rider, ATV's are inherently unstable. Since their introduction in 1971, there have been numerous legislative and self-imposed manufacturer efforts to improve ATV safety, including the ban of three-wheeled designs, engine size limitations for child-sized vehicles, and the offering of operator training programs. Despite these efforts, injuries and trauma related to their use continues to increase.
The Utah research shows that there is an increased risk of ATV-related neurological injury among those not wearing helmets. While hospitals do not consistently document helmet use when a patient enters the emergency department, the study found that 168 patients were wearing helmets at the time of accident, while 352 were not. Those without helmets were more likely to have sustained traumatic brain injury.
MacDonald sees increasing recreational ATV use as a public health issue. "With Utah's increasing population, the popularity of these vehicles and access to public lands, Utah needs to think seriously about reasonable protections to keep people safe when riding ATV's. Of course, the most important steps are to ride safely, wear a helmet, and keep the vehicle under control."
Dennis Jolley | EurekAlert!
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