Washington, D.C. – Due to school closures and stay-at-home-orders throughout the country, in response to COVID-19, at least five states have documented increased OHV injuries. Reports from doctors in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Vermont indicate increased emergency room visits as a result of off-highway vehicle (OHV) incidents. Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is issuing an alert to OHV riders to operate their vehicles with caution as summer is officially about to begin.
“We are alarmed at reports of increased numbers of OHV emergency room visits in hospitals in five states. These increases are occurring earlier than usual due to COVID-19 school closures and stay-at home-orders and we hope that OHV incidents do not continue to increase as summer begins,” stated Rachel Weintraub, Legislative Director and General Counsel with CFA.
OHVs are comprised of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs), and utility task vehicles (UTVs). According to data gathered by CFA and its OHV Safety Coalition, from 2013 through 2019, July is by far the month with the most OHV fatalities, with May and August following as the second and third most fatal months. The day with the highest number of fatalities is July 4th. Even more troubling, July 4th is also the day of the year with the most fatalities of children aged 16 or younger.
“All OHVs, even youth models, pose risks. OHVs are fast, complex machines, and due to their design, they roll over easily. One wrong choice could lead to the emergency department or worse. Children younger than 16 years just aren’t ready for the demands of safe riding, so we encourage parents to find a different activity for their child,” said Dr. Gary Smith, President of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance.
CFA and its OHV Safety Coalition have been documenting OHV deaths since 2013 by compiling, analyzing, and making publicly available data and findings from relevant newspaper and government resources. From 2013 through 2019, CFA and the OHV Safety Coalition documented over 550 total deaths during the month of July. For the entire time period, CFA has documented over 4,000 deaths. While these numbers are high, these findings are not yet complete and the number of deaths will likely increase as additional information becomes available.
From Press Reports, CFA has Identified, that Six States Have Experienced Increases in OHV Related Emergency Room Visits:
Two June articles from Colorado, document that the Children’s Hospital of Colorado in Colorado Springs has seen an “118% increase in the number of trauma cases presented in the emergency department. The majority of trauma cases are accidental and related to falls, sports injuries, bike accidents, trampoline injuries, bites, ATV accidents, car accidents, etc.”
The injury prevention coordinator at Children’s Hospital Colorado, Colorado Springs, Amanda Abramczyk-Thill, stated in an interview with Fox21News, that “It’s really only advised to let a child ride an ATV, drive or ride it if they’re 16 years old or older, kind of like that driver license age.”
In three articles from May and June in Florida, doctors have documented a “dramatic increase” in “the number of children in the hospital with all-terrain vehicle-related injuries” due to the COVID-19 epidemic school closures. Dr. Marie Crandall, a professor of surgery at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Jacksonville stated, “We have seen a dramatic increase in the kids that come in with injuries from ATVs as compared to previous years…in a typical year while children are still in school, there are up to three injuries a month from ATVs severe enough that children are taken to the hospital. This year, doctors have seen five to ten incidents a month and up to two or three deaths every month, mostly because of ATV traumatic brain injuries.”
These increases amount to 5% increase in severe ATV incidents requiring an emergency room visit with children in the last few months and Crandall has seen these severe brain injuries first-hand and believes there’s a direct correlation between the rise in accidents and COVID-19.
Dr. Crandall stressed the importance of riders and drivers wearing a helmet and parental supervision when children are driving an ATV.
Similarly in Georgia, doctors at Piedmont Columbus Regional are seeing an increase in ATV injuries during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Since the pandemic kids from ages 3 to 15 have been coming in and out of the hospital for treatment. The accidental injuries have increased because more kids are out of school and are now at home.” “We are seeing an increase in accidental injuries, bike injuries, ATV injuries, and also accidental ingestions,” stated Kristin Hinton Clinical Manager of Pediatric Emergency Department at Piedmont Columbus Regional Hospital.
In Louisiana, doctors at the Emergency Medical Department for Lake Charles Memorial Hospital have reported that “since the stay-at-home order” there has been an “increase of children injured in ATV accidents, even at night.” Dr. Jon Gray, Emergency Medical Department Director for Lake Charles Memorial Director stated that, “We’ve had about a seventy-five percent increase in the past two months with ATV accidents, so a significant number.” “There has been about eighteen percent more pediatric admissions due to ATV trauma.”
The University of Vermont Medical Center Emergency Department has identified that the “total number of people treated for ATV injuries through May 31 is 17 – up from six in 2019 and four in 2018. The number of pediatric cases has jumped to five – up from average of less than one for the last two years. Additionally, alcohol appears to be a factor in about half of the adult cases. For this time period, helmet usage was low among those admitted to the trauma service for ATV related injuries: 25 percent in 2018, 33 percent in 2019 and 29 percent in 2020.” An injury prevention coordinator at the University of Vermont Medical Center, Abby Beerman, stated, that the “rise in ATV injuries this year is alarming. We are concerned that the numbers will continue to increase this summer unless our communities become aware of the issue and practice safe ridership.” 
OHV Fatalities in Each State
CFA’s OHV fatality data also include state by state data. From our data, we are able to identify that the states with the most fatalities include: 1) Pennsylvania (226); 2) Texas (217); 3) California (177); 4) West Virginia (173); and 5) Missouri (171). The heat map below provides fatality information for each state.
The Most OHV Fatalities Occur on July 4th
CFA data from 2013 through 2019 shows that the most fatalities for all people, children and adults, occurred on July 4th. Of the 52 recorded deaths on July 4th between 2013 and 2019, 11 were children aged 16 or younger (21.2%). On no other day of the year were there double-digit deaths for children age 16 or younger. Additionally, of the 35 days of the year with five or more deaths of children 16 or younger, 10 days were in the month of July (28.6%). On average, 17.4% of fatalities recorded were children aged 16 or younger.
“July 4th has historically been the day with the most OHV deaths. OHV related incidents are already higher this year due to COVID-19 and we urge all OHV riders to prioritize safety so that this statistic will not be a reality again in 2020,” stated Weintraub. “Operators of OHVs must have the necessary skills to operate an OHV, should use appropriate safety equipment, such as helmets, should never operate on roads, and never carry passengers.”
CFA OHV fatality data also show that July is the month with the most OHV fatalities.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) released its most recent fatality and injury report related to ATVs in February 2020. The CPSC received reports of 264 ATV fatalities in 2018 and 463 in 2017, with the expectation that these numbers will increase as reporting is ongoing. In 2018, CFA identified 600 OHV fatalities and in 2017 CFA data included 633 OHV fatalities. These fatalities include ATVs and ROVs.
CFA has been working to minimize deaths and injuries from OHVs for decades by petitioning the CPSC to ban adult-size ATVs for children, by convening a coalition to prevent OHV road access, and with that coalition, by compiling fatality information in real time, and by urging the CPSC to collect annual ROV data among other requests to take steps to reduce OHV deaths and injuries.
CFA urges consumers to take the following six critical steps in order to reduce OHV deaths and injuries:
- Never operate an OHV on a road.
- Never permit children younger than 16 years old to operate an adult-size OHV or any OHV that is too large or too powerful for them.
- Always wear a helmet and other protective gear when riding an OHV.
- Never allow more people on an OHV than it was designed to carry.
- Never ride when under the influence.
- Take a hands-on safety course.
Our partners at Prevent Child Injury have issued an important ATV safety toolkit available at https://www.preventchildinjury.org/toolkits/atv-safety aimed specifically at helping parents learn about the risks of children using ATVs.
CFA and the OHV Safety Coalition collect fatality data from news reports, game or natural resource crash investigations, state crash investigations, as well as data from the CPSC, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). CFA data are likely an underestimate of actual fatalities and CFA consistently updates the data as more information is obtained. CFA makes these data available on our website.
Contact: Rachel Weintraub, 202-939-1012
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