All-terrain vehicles used to be just for farmers, but more recreational ATV users are appearing in Iowa and more kids are taking the handlebars and getting hurt or killed.

Pam Hoogerwerf, injury prevention coordinator at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, says too many parents are turning their untrained children loose on these powerful, dangerous three- and four-wheelers.

“They need to be riding the correct-sized machine,” Hoogerwerf says. “We’ve got way too small and young age of kids driving huge machines that they have no business trying to operate just because they’re heavier and they’re harder to manipulate.”

Many of recent ATV crashes that resulted in serious or fatal injuries involved kids that weren’t wearing helmets. Hoogerwerf says helmets are a must, as are hard-soled shoes or boots.

“Even though summertime isn’t the most comfortable time to wear long sleeves and long pants, they really should be doing that because we see a lot of lacerations either from brush or barbed wire fences,” she says.

Many accidents occur when two kids are on one machine and it hits a bump or rounds a sharp corner and the passenger falls off.

“The seats look like they can accommodate more than one child on them but that’s absolutely not the case,” Hoogerwerf says. “ATVs are made for one person and for one person only because the machine is so rider-active and that’s where we’re seeing a lot of problems with kids putting more than one on there.”

She notes, ATVs are not toys. Kids need to ride on age-appropriate machines and anyone under 16 should be closely supervised.

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