A new research article published in the September 15, 2018 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons analyzes the impact of an American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons’ (AAOS) ATV public safety campaign and implications for future efforts to reduce injuries.
According to Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) data, ATV injuries led to over 2 million emergency department visits from 2000 to 2015. ATV accidents can lead to traumatic brain injuries, skull fractures, concussions, spinal fractures, and broken bones.
“While the AAOS campaign, and various other public safety campaigns have had a visible impact on ATV related injuries, more needs to be done,” said Joey Johnson, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon and an author of the article titled, “Trends in all-terrain vehicle injuries from 2000 to 2015 and the effect of targeted public safety campaigns.” “In 2015, ATV accidents were responsible for over 108,000 emergency room visits, and while this is a decline from the peak volume of injuries in 2007, it’s actually the same rate as 2000.”
Orthopaedic surgeons treat many of the patients who land in emergency rooms after ATV accidents. Looking for a way to stem the flow of injuries, AAOS launched a multimedia campaign highlighting the risk of injury in young and inexperienced drivers in 2007. Study authors reviewed the rates of ATV-related injuries and identified trends before and after the campaign and highlighted the following findings:
- There was an upward trend in the injury rate from 2000, when the injury rate was 36 per 100,000 people through 2007, when it peaked at 54 per 100,000.
- ATV injuries decreased 34 percent from 2007 to 2015.
- In 2015, the rate of injuries was 34 per 100,000 people.
- Total estimated ATV injuries according to CPSC data:
- 2000: 102,425 injuries.
- 2007: 163,114 injuries.
- 2015: 108,220 injuries. The total number for 2015 is slightly higher than 2000, but when corrected for population and ER visits, it ends up being nearly the same rate.
The overall incidence of ATV-related injuries has declined since 2007, which coincides with the launch of AAOS’ public service campaign. The authors initially hypothesized that ATV injury rates decreased more quickly than similar products, such as dirt bikes, due to differences in media exposure. However, the decrease in injuries was similar for both vehicles.
“Most likely, multiple factors helped drive the decrease in the rate of ATV injuries, with the AAOS and other public safety campaigns potentially playing a role,” said Dr. Johnson.
Risk for ATV injury varies by age, gender, experience and state of the rider, and helmet use. “Children ages 14 to 17 years are at nearly three times greater risk than the national average to sustain ATV-related injuries,” noted Dr. Johnson. Children younger than 16 years accounted for 24 percent of fatal ATV injuries from 1982 to 2012. Injuries were 2.7 times more common in males than females. Inexperience, intoxication, and failure to wear a helmet all increase injury risk.
Johnson points to safety campaigns as well as legislation as key to keeping riders safe. There are currently no national standards for ATV safety, and state regulations vary significantly. For example, 8-year-olds may operate ATVs in North Carolina, while in many states 14 is the minimum age. While AAOS, American Academy of Pediatrics, and the CPSC all discourage ATV use in children 16 years or younger, those are only voluntary guidelines.
“Given the serious morbidity associated with these injuries, the cost to the healthcare system to treat them, and that the population most at risk appears to be children and adolescents, further safety initiatives and uniform legislation regarding ATV use are needed,” Dr. Johnson asserted. “We need to reach teens and parents in rural, urban and suburban areas. It’s critical that we help them understand that learning how to ride safely at an appropriate age, wearing helmets, and not being intoxicated can prevent life-changing injuries.”
The full study is available here.