Seventeen-year-old Wesley Troxtell of Durant was at a four-wheeling event in Texas in March when the ATV he was riding hit a deep drainage ditch.
The ATV (all-terrain vehicle) rolled four times with Troxtell, who suffered a broken arm and a traumatic brain injury. He was not wearing a helmet.
“When we got him his four-wheeler, we thought he would be OK, that he would be more cautious than the other children,” said Wesley's mother, Linda Troxtell. “It didn't work out that way. Kids get on them and think they can drive really fast and nothing is going to happen to them, but it does.”
Wesley Troxtell was lucky. Oklahoma averages 15 deaths per year due to ATV accidents, said Mike Klumpp, Oklahoma 4-H ATV Safety Coordinator. Hundreds are injured each year in Oklahoma on ATVs, he said.
“I could tell war stories of people who have had kids gone through trauma centers,” Klumpp said. “A lot of parents think they are baby-sitting toys. That really bothers me. Supervision is the key for young riders.”
ATVs are associated with a significant and increasing number of hospitalizations of children in the United States, according to a report by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Over a nine-year period from 1997 to 2006, hospitalizations for ATV injuries increased 150 percent among riders younger than 18, according to the study. The number of young girls injured on ATVS increased by 250 percent in that time span.
In 2010, there were more than 115,000 ATV-related emergency room treated injuries in the United States with 317 reported deaths. The average number of deaths per year for the past five years is 552.
Last year, the Trauma One Center at OU Medical Center treated 117 victims of ATV-related accidents. Sixty of the victims were younger than 18.
Many of the injuries are the result of riders not wearing helmets and other protective gear, kids driving ATVs that are too large for them and riding double, Klumpp said.
“Most ATVs are designed for one person only,” he said.
Oklahoma requires anyone younger than 18 who is riding an ATV on public lands to wear a helmet, but not on private property. A handful of states require a helmet both places, Klumpp said.
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The ATV Golden Rules
Always wear a helmet and ther protective gear (goggles, over-the-ankle boots, long-sleeved shirts, long pants and gloves)
Never ride on public roads; another vehicle could hit you
Never ride under the influence of alcohol and drugs
Never carry a passenger on a single-rider vehicle
Ride an ATV that is right for your age
Supervise riders younger than 16; ATVs are not toys
Ride only on designated trails and at a safe speed
Source: ATV Safety Institute