HALIFAX — A growing number of child seafarers were seriously injured in all-terrain vehicle (ATV) accidents last year. With hospitals elsewhere in Canada reporting a similar increase, many are saying it’s time for stricter rules for these vehicles.
Doctors report that children injured in ATVs are often seriously injured. Twenty percent of the cases they see involve head injuries, which can lead to lifelong complications or even death.
Although ATV injuries can occur at any age, data shows that children are overrepresented. According to the Canadian Pediatric Society, young people under the age of 16 are responsible for nearly a quarter of ATV-related deaths in Canada.
Injured children are often treated in the emergency department or, if their condition is more serious, admitted to pediatric intensive care units. In some cases, the children do not even make it to the hospital and die from their injuries.
Last year, IWK Health in Halifax, the Maritimes’ premier pediatric trauma center, saw an increase in critical care admissions related to ATV, reaching the highest level on record for such admissions. , 31 years ago.
“This increase is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr. Chris Soder, critical care pediatrician at IWK Health, who typically sees only one ATV-related case a year. In 2021 he has seen four.
Montreal has more cases, the injuries are more serious and affect younger children, Debbie Friedman, director of trauma at Montreal Children’s Hospital, said in an email.
The number of ATV-injured patients at his hospital has nearly doubled from 16 in 2020 to 31 in 2021, according to data from the Canadian Hospital Injury Prevention Reporting and Prevention System. Last year’s numbers were well above the hospital’s average since 2000 of 23 injuries per year.
Wayne Daub of the Canadian Quad Council said he wasn’t aware of any studies on the relative safety of youth ATVs, but said they were safer from the age of 12 than adults, which were more difficult to manoeuvre.
However, ATVs are inherently less stable than cars. Rollovers accounted for half of deaths from ATV incidents between 2009 and 2019, according to a report on fatalities from the Alberta Chief Coroner’s office. Vehicles are not subject to the same rules regarding seat belts, let alone child seats.
The Atlantic provinces all have some form of ATV safety legislation. In Nova Scotia, for example, children ages 6 to 13 can only use them in enclosed spaces designed to provide a safe and controlled environment. However, no such country is registered in the province and the vehicles are often used in rural areas where law enforcement is more difficult.