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Ages & Stages

Operating or riding in any motorized recreational vehicle or watercraft may be dangerous. Youngsters who may have immature judgment and motor skills may be placed at risk of injury, and even death. Crashes can occur when drivers lose control and hit objects, when drivers or passengers are thrown from the vehicle or when there are collisions with other motor vehicles. Precautions should be taken to prevent injuries, especially involving the head, neck, and back. See below for a list of potential hazards and precautions concerning motorized recreational vehicles and watercrafts.

All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)

Approximately 20,000 injuries and 75 deaths per year (ages 15 and under)

Potential Hazards

    • Drivers losing control and crashing into trees or other solid objects or being thrown from the vehicle.
    • Injuries: to the head, spinal cord and/or abdomen.

Precautions to Take

    • The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission warns that adolescents under age 16 should not drive these four-wheel offroad vehicles, which can attain speeds of up to fifty miles per hour but have poor stability.
    • Have your youngster take a hands-on training course offered by certified instructors.
    • Riders should wear protective clothing, including boots, goggles and a helmet.
    • Never carry passengers.
    • Never ride on paved roads.

Motorcycles

Approximately 10,000 injuries and 350 deaths per year (ages 21 and under)

Potential Hazards

    • Compared to car passengers, per mile, motorcyclists are twenty times more likely to die on the road as car passengers.
    • Injuries: About half of all motorcycle incidents involve collisions with other motor vehicles. Adolescents should not operate motorcycles until they receive their driver’s license.

Precautions to Take

    • A helmet, while only partially effective for preventing fatalities, should be worn at all times.
    • Aspiring teenage motorcyclists must apply for a Class M junior learner’s permit; while practicing, they must be supervised by an adult with a valid motorcycle operator’s license. Before youngsters take the state road test, it is recommended that they receive at least thirty hours of professional instruction, including ten hours of driving in moderate to heavy traffic.
    • We recommend discouraging youngsters from riding motorcycles.

Motorscooters, Mopeds, Minibikes, Minicycles, Trail Bikes

23,000 injuries per year (ages 19 and under)

Potential Hazards

    • Motorscooters and mopeds are on-road vehicles with a top speed of about 30 miles per hour. However, a moped’s acceleration is not sufficient for mixing with city traffic.
    • Minibikes, minicycles and trail bikes are all intended for off-road use. Their design, sluggish acceleration and inadequate brakes make them particularly dangerous.
    • Injuries: typically occur as a result of being struck by other motorists who have poor visibility, hitting a rock, bump, hole in the road, causing the driver to lose control.

Precautions to Take

    • Many states classify mopeds as bicycles and therefore do not require licensing or helmet use; riders of any of these vehicles should always wear protective headgear. Other states set minimum ages of 14 to 16.
    • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that young people who do not know how to drive a car should not be allowed to operate other motorized vehicles.
    • Off-road vehicles are never to be used on the street.

Ride-On Lawnmowers

Approximately 4,800 injuries and 25 deaths per year (ages 5 to 15)

Potential Hazards

    • Mainly a hazard for younger teens when riding on the mower as a passenger or playing in the vicinity of the mower while it is in operation; some youngsters, though, are injured while operating the machine.
    • Injuries: lacerations, amputations and/or fractures, often to the fingers, hands, feet, head, chest.

Precautions to Take

    • Teenagers should be at least 16 years old and receive the same degree of training as for an all-terrain vehicle before being allowed to mow the lawn with one of these machines. The complexities of operating the gears, clutch, brakes and mower blade make ride-on mowers potentially dangerous.

Riding in the Backs of Pickup Trucks

Approximately 1,000 injuries and 127 deaths per year (ages 19 and under)

Potential Hazards

    • Injuries occur when a passenger riding in the bed of a pickup truck falls off, frequently while standing, sitting on the rail, changing position or fooling around.
    • One in three youngsters injured this way suffers severe head trauma.
    • Camper shells offer no protection and may even cause additional injury.

Precautions to Take

No one, regardless of age, should ever ride in the back of a pickup truck or anywhere else in a vehicle not equipped with a seat or seat belt.

Snowmobiles

Approximately 5,700 injuries per year (ages 15 to 24) and 62 deaths per year (all ages)

Potential Hazards

    • Teenage boys and young male adults are the victims in three-fourths of all snowmobile crashes. Alcohol use frequently plays a role in the mishap.
    • Injuries: head injuries; drowning; fractures of the lower legs; frostbite and/or hypothermia, from the cold.

Precautions to Take

    • Adolescents under age 16 should not operate snowmobiles. Those old enough to drive one should receive adequate instruction, specifically about snowmobiles, from an adult.
    • Wear protective clothing, including boots, goggles and a helmet
    • Travel only on designated trails and avoid roads, railroads, waterways and pedestrians.

Personal Watercraft (Jet Skis/Water Scooters)

Approximately 12,000 injuries and 83 deaths per year (all ages)

Potential Hazards

    • During the 1990s, the number of Jet Ski–type craft on U.S. waters quadrupled, as did the number of related injuries. Today’s models are capable of carrying three people and racing along at speeds up to sixty miles per hour. Users are eight times more likely to be injured than those on motorboats.
    • Injuries: lacerations, contusions, fractures and blunt trauma, mostly from collisions with other jet-skiers; wave jumping is a leading cause of fatal jet-ski accidents.

Precautions to Take

    • No one under sixteen should operate a personal watercraft. That is the position not only of the American Academy of Pediatrics but the Personal Watercraft Industry Association, which represents the manufacturers of these recreational craft.
    • Everyone aboard should wear U.S. Coast Guard–approved flotation devices.
    • Do not jump waves created by the wakes of motorboats.
    • Never operate while under the influence of alcohol.
    • Never operate in swimming areas.

 

Last Updated
7/1/2014
Source
Caring for Your Teenager (Copyright © 2003 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.