Sunday, March 28, 2010

Meanwhile, we're padding them up to ride a bike...

I have noticed in farm safety stats this obvious blind spot.  As deaths from farm ponds (at one time the leader) decrease we've added a new, even worse threat.
Larry Foreman describes himself as "a libertarian at heart," but not when it comes to kids. A veteran emergency-room physician—he works at the Arroyo Grande Community Hospital, near the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area in San Luis Obispo County, California—he's seen an endless queue of injured riders of all-terrain vehicles, including children as young as 4. After a particularly busy Sunday in 2004, Foreman decided to do some research. He was stunned to find that in a recent 22-month period, the small rural hospital had treated 210 children with ATV-related injuries.
Foreman began meeting with officials and went on radio to talk up tougher regulations—quickly drawing fire from some off-roaders, including at least two who appealed to hospital officials to fire him. "I was just kind of on this Don Quixote quest, and the windmills were beating the heck out of me," Foreman recalled.
He persisted, however, and eventually the California Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians decided to make the issue a legislative priority. In the spring of 2008, it drafted a safety bill incorporating key elements of a model law drawn up by the ATV industry, such as expanded training and the ban on kids riding adult machines. The legislation was introduced in the California Senate by State Sen. Abel Maldonado, Foreman's senator, but a coalition of off-road groups quickly mustered to fight it, and the legislation died later that year.
Four-wheelers look disarming, almost like overgrown toys. Yet the powerful vehicles, also known as "quads," can reach highway speeds, and unlike cars and trucks, they offer no protection in rollovers. More than 10,000 people have been killed in ATV crashes since federal authorities began keeping track in the 1980s; more than 2,500 deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries have involved kids under 16. [More]
If these deaths occurred off the farm, rural America would be howling, but one of the peculiar things about risk assessment is our tolerance of familiar threats.  It's why many of us think pit bull owners are insane.

I'll take farm safety organizations more seriously when they stop chanting slogans and start taking on the real causes of child deaths.  Consider the reluctance to take a firm stand by Farm Safety Just 4 Kids.
The following suggested practices will help assure safety.
    •    Drivers should receive sufficient training and supervision.
    •    Restrict the use of ATVs by children.
    •    Always wear personal protective equipment when operating an ATV.
    •    Maintain correct body position and weight distribution during ATV operation.
    •    Refrain from taking unnecessary risks such as performing stunts, using alcohol or drugs, excessive speeding, and accepting riders.
    •    ATVs are not to be driven on paved roads.
    •    Do not operate the ATV under adverse conditions such as inclement weather, insufficient light, hazardous terrain, or an ATV in need of repair.
All-terrain vehicles can be hazardous. These vehicles are used for work and recreation, and are capable of achieving high speeds. Chance of injuries is greater among inexperienced ATV drivers than those who have received training. If young people are using ATVs they must have proper instruction and be able to fully comprehend the machine they are operating. No matter what function the ATV performs, remember that it is only as capable as the operator.  [More] [My emphasis]

The word they are avoiding is "prohibit".  Anything less grants approval of sorts to parents who think it is cute, or their children are exceptional.  It also will incur serious pushback from ATV manufacturers.  Frankly, like farm equipment, the time has come for state-licensing for operation of ATV's.

Yeah - I know, more government intrusion.  But it is actually a sign of parental failure, IMHO.

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