AHS: ATV safety urged ahead of long weekend

CALGARY – As Albertans gear up for the August long weekend, Alberta Health Services (AHS) is reminding all residents, and particularly parents of children less than 16 years of age, to be mindful of the significant risks associated with the use of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).

“We know that children less than 16 years of age have not yet developed to the point of having the strength, skills or judgment needed to operate an ATV, and this includes ATVs marketed as „child- or youth-sized,‟” says Dr. Brent Friesen, Medical Officer of Health, Calgary Zone. “Sadly, our recent pediatric data shows how unsafe it is for children less than 16 years of age to partake in ATV activities.”

Between May 1 and July 26 this year, 38 Albertan children have been injured on ATVs. Of those, 14 were injured severely enough to be admitted to either the Stollery Children‟s Hospital or Alberta Children‟s Hospital, and two died from their injuries.

“This data illustrates a devastating trend and one that we‟ve seen for far too many years. One injured child is too many, yet from April 2013 through March 2014, more that 350 children under the age of 17 were seen in Alberta‟s emergency departments for ATV-related injuries, and from 2002 to 2011, 23 children under the age of 16 died,” says Dr. Friesen.

“These needless injuries and deaths can be stopped.”

AHS advises all parents of children less than 16 years of age to ensure their child does not drive or ride in an ATV.
Albertans 16 years of age and older are reminded to take the following precautions to ensure their ATV excursions are as safe as possible:

  • Get Trained

Before you hit the trails, get formal hands-on training from a recognized/trained ATV instructor. Don’t be shy about refreshing your training seasonally.

  • Wear the Gear

A helmet can save your life: from 2002 to 2011, 44 per cent of ATV-rider deaths in Alberta were due to head injuries. In 77 per cent of these head injury deaths, the ATV riders were not wearing a helmet. In addition to a helmet, always wear a jacket, long pants, goggles, boots and gloves.

  • Look First

Be sure you’re aware of the weather forecast and any hazards (geographical, animal or human) that the trail(s) you‟re on could pose.

  • Buckle Up

Be sure you’re fastened in properly, and all gear and equipment (including your ATV restraints) are in proper working condition before you hit the trails.

  • Drive Sober

Don’t drink or do drugs before or while operating an ATV. Fifty-four per cent of those who died in ATV crashes between 2002 and 2011 tested positive for alcohol.

Seek Help

Before you head out on the trail, let others know where you’re going and when they should expect you back. This helps your loved ones know when to call for help if you’ve been gone too long. Take a cellphone or working radio with you, as well as a first-aid kit. Never hesitate to call for help if you’re stuck, have damaged your ATV, or are injured.

For more information on ATV safety and injury prevention in Alberta, visit http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/injuryprevention.asp.

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.