ATV Dangers: Should There Be An Age Limit for Riders?

Photo: ATV Dangers: Should There Be An Age Limit for Riders? High School Quarterback Paralyzed in ATV Accident

A new report by leading public health experts finds what is called an epidemic of serious injuries involving children who ride ATVs, the four-wheel all-terrain vehicles that are so popular in this country.

But efforts to protect children from ATV dangers have fallen short.

Last summer, 12-year old Brooke Scalise and her family booked a tour on ATVs on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.

Adults and children were all given full-sized vehicles, capable of speeds over 60 miles an hour. There was no problem on the flat sand of the beach, but then they headed up a steep road.

"And my daughter was ahead of me," recalled Brooke's mother, Jennifer, "and we rounded a bend and a very sharp turn and when I came around her best friend Emma was standing there screaming in the middle of the road."

A Gallery of Kids Who've Died On ATVs

Brooke had driven off a 200-foot cliff after missing a turn. Authorities later said Brooke had died on impact.

While Jennifer Scalise still primarily blames the Costa Rican tour company, she says she hopes Brooke's tragic death can serve as a warning to other parents about the inherent dangers of children on ATV's.

Said Scalise, "And I know we all think it's never going to happen to us, but it does and my life went from the most perfect nine days to complete hell in a matter of a split second."

High School Quarterback Paralyzed in ATV Accident

Both the academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Surgeons recommend keeping all children under the age of 16 off all-terrain vehicles, also known as ATVs.

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But every weekend, across the country, thousands of children well under 16 take part in the increasingly popular and dangerous sport.

ATV Daredevils In Upstate New York

At a track in upstate Wallkill, New York, 11-year-old T.J. Albright told ABC News about the appeal of ATVs. "Most kids like it," he said, "because they see the pros coming up, like, whoa, that guy went super high, that guy went super far, and then, oh, mom, dad, I want to do that."

"They can go 60, 70 miles per hour, doing 30, 40 feet jumps," said Mark Monfeletto, parent of another young rider at the track. "You gotta be somewhat of a daredevil to do this."

Paramedics are stationed on the sidelines, waiting for the next victim. At a race attended by ABC News, a 16-year-old boy lost control of his ATV going over a jump. The track owner said the injured teen might have suffered several fractures but was not paralyzed.

Public health experts and emergency room doctors say it's an unacceptable risk with serious consequences. Dr. Larry Foreman, a veteran ER doctor in central California, ticked off a list of possible ATV-related complications. "Internal abdominal injuries, internal chest injuries, very bad lacerations, hed injuries. . . . It just kind of runs the gamut of various potential problems."

Dr. Foreman says children and teens simply cannot handle the power and the speed of adult-sized ATVs and even child-sized ATVs.

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