All-terrain vehicles are almost a safe bet for injury among children.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) highlighted the dangers of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) in its survey released on Tuesday's National Injury Prevention Day.

Children and youth are especially at risk for ATV-related injuries and death. Of all local emergency department visits in 2020, youth aged 10-19 had the highest rates of ATV-related injury.

"ATVs are powerful machines that require strength and skill," said Mia Brown, manager of SMDHU's substance use and injury prevention program.

"Children lack the knowledge, development, and skills to safely operate these vehicles and that is why the Canadian Pediatric Society recommends that ATV drivers should be 16 years or older."

In Ontario, ATV drivers must be at least 12 years of age unless they are under direct adult supervision. However, drivers must be at least 16 years of age and have a valid Ontario driver's license to drive on or across a public road.

"ATVs can be an exciting way to explore the outdoors, especially during the summer months," said Brown.

"However, as with any motorized vehicle, there is a serious risk of injury if it is operated incorrectly, and safety precautions have not been taken."

Emergency Department Statistics

In 2020, there were almost 440 emergency department visits for ATV-related injuries across Simcoe Muskoka. This accounted for almost 75 per cent of all off-road motor vehicle injury-related emergency department visits.

That year, the ATV-related injury hospital visit rate was 78.9 per 100,000 population in Simcoe and Muskoka, about 80 per cent higher than the rate of 43.9 per 100,000 for Ontario.

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Simcoe Muskoka's ATV-related hospital visits rose sharply by 30 per cent in 2020 in comparison to 2019, a surge likely linked to changes in recreational use during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prior to 2019, ATV-related emergency department visits had been consistently declining.

Tips for Safe ATV Driving

The health unit urged residents to follow the safety tips below to help lessen the risk of ATV accidents and injuries:

  • Take an ATV training course, such as from the Canadian ATV Safety Institute.
  • Wear protective gear every ride, including eye protection, gloves, boots, long-sleeved shirt and long pants.
  • Wear a helmet that is up to the standard recommended for motorcycles.
  • Control your speed. Excessive speed is a major risk factor for ATV-related deaths.
  • Always ride sober. Do not drive after consuming alcohol or drugs.
  • Follow manufacturer instructions for proper ATV use and maintenance.