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ATV safety under fire after recent tragedy

By Tyler Renaud

An ATV accident last week near Frankford has one federal agency wondering why the government has not taken action to make the sport safer.

Adam Hughes, 21, was driving an ATV late Saturday night when he struck a tree near Frankford. His passenger, an unnamed 21-year old from Trenton, was also seriously injured and in critical condition.

Michel Prud’homme the chief and manager of traffic safety and training for the Canadian Safety Council questions the government’s lack of action.

“I don’t know what’s taking so long….with all the injuries and deaths that have occurred you’d think the government would do something about it, but there’s still no legislation.”

A representative for the Ministry of Transportation said it is listening to people’s concerns.

“The ministry regularly monitors ATV safety in the province and always appreciates hearing the views of our road safety partners, including those from the public health and injury prevention community, as well as the public. We continue to work with our road safety partners and consider any recommendations they may have to improve safety. This ongoing dialogue and partnership allows the ministry to continue to develop initiatives that promote safe and responsible riding practices for all off-road vehicle users,” he said.

In Canada between 1996 and 2004 ATV related hospitalizations increased by 57 per cent , absolute totals of 2800 in 2004 to 2005. Resulting in 760 deaths in ATV accidents between 2003 and 2006.

Dr. Andrew McCullam, the chief coroner of Ontario echoed Prud’homme’s concerns.

“These are preventable deaths,” he said.

ATVs   are seen as a safe family activity, but in reality extremely dangerous for children, he said.

“Full size ATV’s are large, heavy and powerful machines that require strength, balance, dexterity and judgment which children have not developed…children are at risk of riding too fast or riding onto uneven ground, losing control or being thrown from the vehicle in a rollover,” says McCullam.

A full-size ATV can weigh over 660 pounds, while the human bones can only withstand up to 700 pounds per square inch of pressure before breaking, according to the website HealthTap.

So, the ATV industry decided to make children-sized models with less power and weight. However, the Paediatric Society of Canada believes there is no evidence that shows these models are any safer. Even going as far as saying that a child on a child sized machine is 5 times more dangerous than an adult on an adult sized machine.  Resulting in 160 children dying every year in ATV accidents, it states in its report called Preventing Injuries from All-terrain Vehicles.

There is no legislation that mandates a safety course for ATV riders young and old, only suggestions to improve safety. These suggestions fall on deaf ears though. A survey was conducted of 594 children between 12 and 20 years of age on ATV habits. Ninety-three per cent reported using ATV’s for recreational purpose, while less than a quarter reported always wearing a helmet or taking a safety course.

For these reasons the Canadian Paediatric Society believes ATV should be treated like most motorized vehicles.

“An impressive host of medical and safety organizations have published position statements, all with the consensus that children under 16 should be restricted from operating ATV’s,” the report states said.

The funeral for Adam Hughes will be held Friday at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Marmora.