Three recent deaths in all-terrain vehicle accidents in Arkansas, including a toddler and a teenager, are a reminder that ATV accidents are on the rise in the state, and doctors at Arkansas Children’s Hospital want to see the trend reversed.
“Arkansas has had increasing numbers of injuries for several years,” said Dr. Mary Aitken, a pediatrician with the hospital’s Injury-Free Coalition for Kids. “And at Arkansas Children’s Hospital we’ve seen a dramatic increase in serious injuries.”
Aitken said the hospital saw 79 people with serious injuries from ATV accidents last year, including many with traumatic brain injuries. Other serious injuries include pelvic, skull and facial fractures and spinal cord injuries that can end in paralysis and short-term disabilities.
Doctors in Arkansas started tracking hospital admissions of children from ATV accidents in 1998, when the total was between 30 and 40 a year. The number has risen nearly every year since 1998 and now is more than 60, Aitken said.
Aitken said most injuries and fatalities occur in early spring when the weather begins to warm, in summer and at the beginning of hunting season in the fall.
On March 23, a toddler, Elizabeth Everett of Paragould, died at about 8:30 p.m. when the ATV carrying her was struck by a sport-utility vehicle while riding on a paved street. The ATV was being driven by Nicholas Cox, 26, of Paragould, who was hospitalized for treatment of his injuries.
Marcus T. Angel, 40, of Jonesboro, also died after the four-wheeler he was riding went into a ditch. Jonesboro police said the vehicle flipped onto Angel after it hit a metal fence post.
In Cave City on March 25, Elizabeth A. Simpson, 13, died after apparently flipping her four-wheeler as she checked on a calf on her family’s property.
The girl’s father, Gary Simpson, said he found the four-wheeler upside down on top of Elizabeth in the field. She was pronounced dead by Independence County Coroner Hardy Willis.
Most injuries are caused when an ATV flips, either throwing the rider and passenger off or pinning them underneath the vehicle, Aitken said.
“Most ATVs, with very few exceptions, are designed for a single driver,” Aitken said. “A passenger makes the vehicles much more unstable, and they can turn over more easily.”
Aitken said that anyone considering buying or driving an ATV needs to realize that the vehicles are not toys, but are powerful machines that can weigh nearly 600 pounds and can travel at speeds up to 60 or 70 mph.
Additionally, children should not be allowed to drive the vehicles, which are typically designed for adults, she said. One in three ATV crash victims is 16 or younger, and one in four of all people killed in such accidents are 16 or younger.
Aitken said proper training, use of an age-appropriate vehicle, staying off streets and highways and wearing a helmet could help reduce the number of injuries and deaths in the state.