Objective.

To describe the types of injuries sustained by children who ride all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), to estimate the hospital charges associated with these injuries, and to determine adherence to existing rules and regulations governing ATV use.

Methods.

Analysis of statewide hospital admissions (1992–1996) and emergency department (ED) visits (1996) in Utah. All patients who were younger than 16 years and had an external cause of injury code for ATV use were included.

Results.

In 1996, 268 ED visits by children involved an ATV. Boys were twice as commonly injured as girls (male:female ratio: 2.1:1), and skin and orthopedic injuries were most frequent. The median ED charge was $368, and ED charges for these patients totaled $138 000. From 1992 to 1996, 130 children were hospitalized as a result of injuries sustained during ATV use, with median charges of $4240 per admission. Male to female ratio was 2.7:1, and the average age was 11.2 ± 3.6 years. Mean injury severity score was 8.0 ± 6.0, and median length of stay was 2 days (range: 0–43 days). Orthopedic injuries were most frequent, but 25% (n= 32) of children sustained head or spinal cord injury. Most children (94%) were discharged from the hospital, but 8 children died as a result of their injuries. Utah regulations prohibit children who are younger than 8 years from driving an ATV and advise against carrying passengers on ATVs. However, 25% (n = 15) of all injured children who were younger than 8 were driving the ATV when injured, and 15% (n = 60) of injured children were passengers on ATVs. Four of the 8 fatally injured children were younger than 8, and all were driving the ATV at the time of the crash. Finally, the estimated injury rate per 100 registered ATVs is significantly higher for children than for adults (3.41 vs 1.71).

Conclusions.

ATV use results in significant injuries to children. Efforts to educate parents regarding the risks of ATV use, proper supervision, and use of safety equipment are warranted. Manufacturers of ATVs should continue to improve the safety profile of these inherently unstable vehicles.

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