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All-terrain vehicles are powerful machines that should not be considered toys for children, and riders should take safety precautions, doctors and police said.
Three recent ATV-related accidents in or near Bartholomew County show the possible dangers of riding ATVs and the need for wearing protective gear as people enjoy summertime fun on four-wheelers.
Hunter W. Bosque, 14, of Indianapolis, was riding an ATV on South County Road 800W in Bartholomew County on Tuesday night when he swerved to miss a dog. That caused the ATV to flip, and it landed on Bosque, according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
He was transported to Columbus Regional Hospital and treated for a broken leg.
In June, a Scipio man died from injuries suffered in an ATV accident in northwest Jennings County. Jonathan Michael Eldridge, 21, died of blunt force trauma to the head, according to Jennings County Coroner Brian Sawyer.
The accident occurred at 3:23 a.m. about a half-mile from the Jennings-Bartholomew County line near County Road 500N. Police said Eldridge was riding a four-wheeled ATV northbound on the road, following his brother, when his ATV left the west side of the roadway, which has loose asphalt and gravel on both sides.
Eldridge struck several mailboxes before being thrown from the ATV. He was not wearing a helmet and was pronounced dead at the scene, Sawyer said.
Also in June, 7- and 15-year-old girls suffered serious head injuries when they were thrown from an ATV that their father was driving on private property near Freetown.
Nathan Engelking, of Freetown, was driving an ATV in a field when he lost control, causing it to flip.
The girls were taken to Schneck Medical Center in Seymour and then transferred to Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis.
Neither Engelking nor his daughters were wearing helmets or other safety equipment.
“(ATV accidents are) a real problem. We see children of a wide range of age injured every day,” said Dr. Robert Collins, medical director of the emergency department at Riley Hospital for Children.
Many suffer cuts, scrapes, burns or bruises, but every year children die or suffer devastating brain injuries, he said.
Collins knows from personal experience that ATVs are fun to ride and understands the appeal but said parents need to supervise their children on ATVs and make sure they are wearing protective equipment, if they are going to allow them to ride an ATV.
One of the main reasons for children’s injuries is that they ride ATVs that are suited for adults and are too big, powerful and fast for children to control, Collins said. People should ride ATVs that are age appropriate. Children’s ATVs are smaller and slower, he added.
An inability to control an ATV and uneven terrain often contribute to the ATV rolling over and on top of the rider, Collins said.
Another problem is a lack of protective gear, specifically not wearing a helmet, Collins said. Helmets should be the same as one would wear on a motorcycle, he added.
“You break your head it’s harder to fix,” Collins said.
Drinking alcohol is a factor in many ATV accidents involving adults and adolescents, said Indiana Conservation Officer Jet Quillen, a spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources’ law enforcement division.
Quillen also said people usually don’t realize that ATVs are not designed to be ridden on roadways, because the tires and braking and steering systems are designed for off-road use.
ATV riders should be aware that it is illegal in some Indiana counties to ride ATVs on roadways, Quillen added.
Bartholomew and Brown counties prohibit riding on roadways, while Decatur, Jackson and Jennings counties allow it. However, state law allows ATVs used for farming to be driven on roadways.
All ATVs purchased after Dec. 31, 2003, and all ATVs used on public property must be registered with DNR, Quillen said.
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