ATV accidents are one of the leading causes of trauma in the state of Mississippi, with Lee County being fifth in the state for the most accidents involving ATVs.
ATV use is climbing, as is the number of injuries. In 1997, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were 54,700 injuries with an increase to 111,700 in 2001. Injuries to children also increased approximately 57 percent over the same period. From 2007-2010, Mississippi alone reported 62 deaths related to ATV accidents, not including the number of life-altering injuries that were also noted.
To combat this growing trend, the employees of North Mississippi Medical Center’s Trauma Office are working to help decrease the number of accidents in Lee County. We want to inform area residents about the dangers of ATVs as well as proper safety measures to protect themselves and those they love.
The most important thing you can do to protect yourself is to wear the proper protective gear, which includes a helmet, goggles and protective clothing. Helmets are the No. 1 item people do not use that they should. We have seen a number of head injuries caused by accidents where people weren’t wearing a helmet. Protective clothing can help decrease the severity of injury by giving a little more cushion.
Equally important is that ATV drivers not be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This will alter your reaction time and place the person at high risk for collision with a fixed object or another vehicle. Alcohol and drugs impair a person’s judgment, which can also alter their thought processes. Males, who are often risk-takers and less fearful, are three times more likely to be injured with an ATV. ATV accidents often cause bone fractures as well as injuries to the head, spine, abdomen and chest.
If you allow children to ride an ATV, please make sure they ride one that is appropriately sized. When children are severely injured on an ATV, 95 percent of the time it is because they are riding an ATV that is too big for them. ATVs have become larger, heavier and faster, which makes them extremely difficult to be handled by a child. If the ATV were to roll over onto the child, he or she would not be able to lift it off. Never let a child ride an ATV without supervision.
ATV injuries can be serious, life-altering or even fatal. Please, wear your helmet and protective gear. Make sure the ATV is the appropriate size, and always supervise children on an ATV. Always avoid alcohol and drugs when operating any type of vehicle. Following these simple steps can save your life or someone else’s. Please think before you ride, and remember, you have to be tough if you are going to be dumb.
Kim Wright, registered nurse, is the trauma program manager for North Mississippi Medical Center’s Emergency Services Department.