For the millions of Canadians who live and work outside the country’s perpetually growing city centres, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) have long been an indispensable tool and universal source of entertainment. They are an essential appliance on large-scale ranches and farms and a crucial mode of transportation – along with snowmobiles – for some of the nation’s more isolated communities. But perhaps their widest use is recreation. ATVs provide a rugged and exhilarating experience uniquely suited to Canada’s difficult terrain.
For all their benefits, though, ATVs are also a prevalent and growing source of injuries across the country. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), the number of injuries caused by ATV accidents is growing faster “than any other major type of wheel- or water-based activity” in the country. Driven by big increases in Alberta and BC, the national number of hospitalizations from ATV accidents rose 31 per cent between 2001-2002 and 2009-2010, not including individuals who were treated at walk-in clinics, family doctors, or who died at the scene.
While the overall growth of ATV injuries may correspond to increased ownership and usage, a figure that hasn’t wavered is the percentage of injuries affecting youth, especially young men. According to a Safe Kids Canada study released in 2010, a full quarter of ATV deaths occur in kids 15 years of age or younger.
In Ontario, activists are trying to change that: Linda Russell, whose 9-year old son Tyler Massey was killed in an ATV accident in June 2015, has launched the Tyler Massey Memorial Fund to raise awareness and educate kids about the dangers of ATVing. The fund is also pushing provincial lawmakers to revise the Ontario Off-Road Vehicles Act, which states that children under 12 can operate ATVs with adult supervision or if they are on land owned by the ATV owner.
While the minimum age and safety training required to operate an ATV varies from province to province, “in some cases, children and teens who are too young for a driver’s licence are allowed to drive an ATV,” noted Patricia Sidhom, program lead for the CIHI Primary Health Care Information and Clinical Registries.
Youth alone do not account for the sheer number of ATV injuries accumulating in Canada, however. In Ontario, emergency rooms accept an average of 15 people with injuries each day. The financial cost of these injuries is surprising, as well. According to AllOntario.com, “the direct costs of ATV and snowmobile injuries in Canada are $185 million and indirect costs are $196 million for a total of $381 million.”
Of course, just because ATV injuries are commonplace doesn’t mean you should avoid your vehicle altogether. Rather, have a look at these simple tips from the Canada Safety Council which can help you arrive home safely:
- Train up. A few hours in a Canada Safety Council ATV course could save your life.
- Suit up. Wear a helmet, eye protection, long pants, long sleeves, gloves and non-skid shoes for every ride.
- Ride the right size. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. Adult-sized ATVs are not appropriate for children under 16.
- Ride by day. Even on familiar terrain, low light and reduced visibility will increase the chances of a mishap. Park your ATV after dark and in poor weather.
- Never take passengers. Most ATVs are not designed for doubling. Do not attach passenger seats to your ATV.
Even ATV riders who have adhered to the most stringent safety and training guidelines aren’t assured of a safe trip, however. If you or a member of your family has suffered from ATV injuries, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today. They can help you get the compensation you need to focus on your recovery.
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