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Need for Speed: Motorized Vehicle Safety for Children

Although children cannot drive automobiles, some of them (usually with their parents' blessings) are still being allowed into the driver's seat of other types of motorized vehicles. Most commonly, these youngsters are driving tractors, lawn mowers, personal watercraft, mopeds, minibikes, trail bikes, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), and snowmobiles. Some of these vehicles are designed and advertised to be used primarily by children.

While children are physically able to turn the steering wheel and reach the gas pedal of these motorized vehicles, they lack the coordination, the reflexes, and the judgment to avoid crashes.

In addition, these vehicles achieve high speeds but provide no protective covering. Therefore, when a crash does occur, there is a high risk of serious injury. Minibikes (two-wheeled vehicles that resemble small motorcycles) have a crash rate 400 percent higher than that of bicycles, with most injuries occurring from falls or collisions. There are more than thirty thousand crashes per year on trail bikes, with about one third of them occurring in youngsters under the age of fourteen.

ATVs have received considerable attention in recent years—much of it negative because of their high crash rates. These off-road vehicles can achieve speeds as high as 30 to 50 miles per hour, and they enjoyed a surge in popularity in the 1980s. But the three-wheel models in particular are prone to overturning on hills and slopes. Many children have died, often after suffering serious head injuries. Head injuries also are responsible for deaths on snowmobiles, which can achieve high rates of speed and are prone to rollovers. Tractors, riding mowers, and personal watercraft also tend to roll over, causing serious injuries. None of these vehicles are appropriate for children to drive.

Last Updated
Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 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.
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