The number of children and females getting injured while using all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) is on the rise, a new report released by the Hamad Trauma Centre’s Hamad Injury Prevention Programme (HIPP) indicates.
The report highlighted a 42% increase in serious ATV-related injuries, with a 92% rise in the number of children affected and a 154% increase in the number of females injured, HMC said in a statement yesterday.
According to the report, children as young as 16 months of age have been treated by Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) for injuries sustained because of ATV crashes, while young males under 22 years of age are identified as being at most risk for severe injury.
The report details the results of an analysis of 616 patients treated at Hamad General Hospital between 2008 and 2016 for injuries sustained while using or riding ATVs. According to the report, more than 75% of all injuries happened between the months of December and March and 14 of the 616 patients treated succumbed to their injuries.
“The month of December is when Hamad Trauma Centre begins to see more patients who are injured while riding ATVs. Most of the victims are youths, between the ages of 12 and 29 years. While many of the patients injured during the nine-year study period were male, including many below the age of 12 years, we are seeing an increasing number of female victims,” said Dr Rafael Consunji, director of the HIPP, the community outreach arm of the Hamad Trauma Centre.
Dr Consunji explained that ATVs are designed for one passenger and that safely operating the vehicles requires the driver to manage the passenger’s weight. He said the driver must have enough strength, training and experience to drive the ATV safely.
“Safety laws regarding ATV use are in force throughout much of the world, and not only (do they) place an age limit on the operation of these vehicles, but also require the use of protective equipment such as helmets. Families must see to it that young children do not drive or ride ATVs,” he said.
He added that during the period studied, only 2.6% of the patients treated were wearing a helmet or harness and more than 80% of the victims who died from their injuries did so because of a traumatic brain injury. According to the report, head injuries were the most common followed by arm and leg fractures.
While there are no regulations requiring the use of personal protective equipment while operating ATVs in Qatar, Dr Consunji recommends it. Helmets with fastened chinstraps and safety glasses, goggles or a face shield have been shown to reduce the severity of injuries when crashes do occur.
Over-the-ankle boots, gloves, long-sleeved shirts and long pants are also recommended to protect knees and elbows from cuts and scratches. It is also recommended to select ATVs with full-driver restraint systems, such as a 5- or 7-point harness (like those worn by Formula 1 drivers), anchored at the crotch and shoulders.
These restraints have been shown to prevent ejection from the ATV. It is also recommended to choose an ATV with a roll bar, that protects the driver from the full weight of the ATV and the direct impact of the ground if a rollover should occur.
Tips for safe operation of ATVs
The Hamad Injury Prevention Programme (HIPP) has shared the following recommendations for the safe operation of ATVs:
* ATVs are not toys. The size, power and weight of an ATV requires complex decision-making, impulse control and strength, which are not present in young children. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons states that children, younger than 12 years old, should not operate ATVs.
* ATVs are designed for only one user. To drive an ATV safely, one must be able to adjust his or her position and shift their weight in response to sudden changes in direction, speed and terrain. Riding with or as a passenger increases the chance that weight imbalance and instability will occur. Weight imbalance and instability are common causes of crashes and rollovers.
* Do not operate an ATV while impaired. Any substance that impairs reaction time and judgment, or even being sleepy or drowsy, makes for unsafe ATV use.
* Do not operate an ATV at night or on public roads. Most ATVs do not have headlights and the inability to see the terrain clearly and to be seen by others makes night ATV trips riskier. Most ATVs have fixed rear axles which do not allow the inner rear wheel to rotate freely when turning. This can cause the sudden release of torque which, on firm surfaces, promotes lurching and loss of control.
* Leave the stunt driving to professionals. Most injuries are the result of collisions and rollovers. Collisions may be with fixed objects (suddenly appearing walls, posts, etc), another ATV, or with other vehicles. Children are more likely to be injured in collisions or in lateral rollovers while adults are more commonly injured in backward rollovers, a common mechanism when ascending hills or dunes or doing ‘wheelies’ or stunts.
* Get trained and certified in ATV safety. An ATV is a complex motor vehicle that requires formal instructions and/or training before one can safely operate the vehicle. Some countries require a distinct ATV licence for all ATV drivers. These licences are issued based on demonstrated competence in handling the vehicle and knowledge of the safety hazards.
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