Over the weekend, a boy, 7, died and two younger children were injured in an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) accident in Dade City, Florida. The three adult men also riding the vehicle at the time were hurt, as well.
According to a statement from Florida Highway Patrol, the incident took place on July 4 around 8 p.m., when the 7-year-old boy was operating the vehicle in a grass field on private property. Sgt. Steve Gaskins told TODAY that the child made a sharp turn and fell out of the vehicle, which then rolled over him. He was transported to a local hospital, where he died from his injuries.
None of the injuries to the other children, a 2-year-old boy and 4-year-old girl, were life-threatening, Gaskin said, but the boy's condition was more serious. The adults' injuries were all minor, according to the Florida Highway Patrol statement.
The report also stated that the type of vehicle involved was a Kawasaki TERYX4 ATV, which, per the Kawasaki website, is designed to seat four people. Experts discourage having more riders than the number of seats or seat belts in the ATV.
In addition, none of the six riders were wearing helmets, and none of the children were using seat belts. (It was "unknown" if the adults were, per the report.) When asked if the victims had on any other protective gear, Gaskins said, "I’m not aware of any safety equipment in use."
He added that in Florida, it's illegal for children under 16 to ride an ATV without a helmet. The case is still under active investigation, and the final outcome, including any potential charges, is pending.
The accident took place on the most deadly day, July Fourth, during the most deadly month for ATV accidents, according to the Consumer Federation of America. Children under 16 comprise about 1 in 5 ATV fatalities, per the Consumer Product and Safety Commission, and in 80-90% of ATV deaths, the victim is not wearing a helmet, according to nonprofit the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
What's more, early data shows that power-sports equipment sales are rising, possibly due to the coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Bret Nicks, a professor of emergency medicine at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Physicians, told TODAY he's seen a recent increase in injuries and fatalities related to ATVs.
"The power behind them ... is markedly greater than it was a decade ago," he said. "People have to recognize that ATVs are not toys. They're fun, and yes, they have very small ones, but they're incredibly heavy, and they have lots of power."
He added that the most common injuries kids sustain while riding ATVs are contusions and injuries to the skin because they're not wearing appropriate gear. Arm, leg and ankle fractures are also frequent.
With ATVs, "there are appropriate ways to go about having tremendous amounts of fun," Nicks said. But taking necessary precautions is crucial and possibly lifesaving. Per the ATV Safety Institute:
- Always wear a Department of Transportation-compliant helmet, goggles, long sleeves, long pants, over-the-ankle boots and gloves.
- Never ride on paved roads, except to cross a road when it's safe and permitted by law.
- Never ride or get on a vehicle driven by someone under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Never carry a passenger on a single-rider ATV. For ATVs designed for two or more people, only the recommended number of people should ride it.
- Ride an age-appropriate ATV.
- Supervise riders under 16 years old.
- Ride only on safe trails at a safe speed.
- Take a course on ATV safety and make your child do the same prior to riding.
The not-for-profit safety organization also encourages a five to 10-minute inspection of your ATV before each ride. The off-road environment can be tough on ATVs, and riders should take every precaution to keep themselves and their passengers safe.