RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Aging can be a bumpy ride. Baby boomers are accounting for more and more injuries and deaths related to all-terrain vehicle (ATV) crashes, according to a pair of studies appearing in this month’s Southern Medical Journal.
THE DETAILS: In one study, researchers looked at a trauma center’s records of 250 patients hurts in ATV crashes from 2001 through 2007. The number of injuries increased by 78 percent in the three most recent years studied; males accounted for 80 percent of the injuries. Just 6 percent of injured riders were wearing helmets at the time of the accident. Four percent of injuries ended in death. The good news: Injuries in children under 16 decreased from 21 to 9 percent. However, patients older than 50 suffered more frequent and severe chest and head injuries than younger riders, and often experienced more complications, greater disability, and longer hospital stays.
The second study found a sharp increase in ATV-related deaths in the senior citizen age group, people 65 and older. Looking at West Virginia death certificates, researchers found that deaths increased by more than 150 percent from 1985 to 2007. West Virginia reports the highest ATV fatality rate in the country. The oldest victim was 92 years old; researchers found that rollovers and overturns were the most common causes of fatal injury among older riders, adding that younger riders are more likely to die in collisions. “The popularity of ATV riding and the increase of related injuries among older adults suggest that 60 is the new 40,” the study authors write.
WHAT IT MEANS: It’s possible that the aging U.S. population is taking up a hobby without taking proper safety precautions.
The ATV Safety Institute recommends these safe practices for all riders:
1. Always wear a helmet and other protective gear.
2. Never ride on public roads—another vehicle could hit you.
3. Never ride under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
4. Never carry a passenger on a single-rider vehicle.
5. Ride an ATV that’s right for your age.
6. Supervise riders younger than 16; ATVs are not toys.
7. Ride only on designated trails and at a safe speed.
8. Take an ATV RiderCourse.
• Don’t blaze new trails. Steering off of designated ATV trails introduces a loud, noisy, destructive machine into delicate forest ecosystems. Stick to designated ATV trails and roads, and cross streams only at designated spots. Contact your state’s conservation agency to find out where trails near your home are located.
• Consider ecofriendlier activities. ATVs burn much dirtier than cars, so if you’re looking to spend time in nature, consider less polluting options like hiking or camping. Leave No Trace is a nonprofit group with loads of information to help you learn to become a responsible outdoorsman/woman.