Sunday, September 02, 2007

Adult supervision is required 

A 13 year-old girl is dead and her 10 year-old passenger has suffered major injuries while riding an ATV into a mineshaft.

From the story: "A 13-year-old girl who went missing while riding an all-terrain vehicle was found dead in a mine shaft, while her 10-year-old companion was rescued with serious injuries early Sunday, authorities said."

In case you are wondering what the point of this post is - ADULT SUPERVISION IS REQUIRED. Read the last statement slowly. Let it sink in. I did not state that the point of this post is ATVs are unsafe. True but not the problem here. I did not state that the point of this post is that mineshafts are unsafe. True but also not the problem here.

I work most days with my older brother on playground construction projects and the odd residential remodeling project. We passed a 3 wheel ATV for sale on the side of the road. I remarked that I had not seen a "3 wheeler" in many years. My brother responded that he had owned several over the last few years (none curently) because they can be bought cheap. He would not let his son or step-daughters ride the 3 wheeler ever, but that adults can and should be allowed to ride.

If you are unaware, you can read more here. The important information is:

Safety issues with 3-wheel ATVs caused all manufacturers to switch to 4-wheeled models in the late '80s, and 3-wheel models ended production in 1987, due to consent decrees between the major manufacturers and the Consumer Product Safety Commission -- the result of legal battles over safety issues among consumer groups, the manufacturers and CPSC. The lighter weight of the 3-wheel models made them popular with some expert riders. Cornering is more challenging than with a 4-wheeled machine because leaning into the turn is even more important. Operators may roll over if caution isn't used. The front end of 3-wheelers obviously has a single wheel making it lighter, and flipping backwards is a potential hazard, especially when climbing hills. Rollovers may also occur when traveling down a steep incline. The consent decrees expired in 1997, allowing manufacturers to once again make and market 3-wheel models, though there are very few marketed today.

When I was an adolescent, I wanted a 3 wheeler. My parents FORTUNATELY did not have the money to indulge us (I am the middle of 3 boys in my immediate family). We were aware of constant reports of young people dying on 3 wheelers. The machines just were not safe if used as advertised. More critical, young riders were more likely to die in rollovers. Read above that leaning into a turn is important on a 3 wheeler. We would hear of the most recent incident and the details would be near identical. A young operator and an even younger passenger were killed while riding unsupervised in their grandparent's/uncle'/aunt's field. Oh the tragedy.

Look. Adding a fourth wheel has made the common ATV far safer to ride. Rollovers are not common and deathrates are down. However, ADULT SUPERVISION IS STILL REQUIRED. A 13 year-old should not be operating an ATV. It is in the instruction manual and written on the ATV in a conspicuous place. A 10 year-old should not be allowed to ride with such a young operator. The mineshaft was never a safe playground. The ATV of today is designed for safer handling but is still inherently dangerous to operate. Young children need supervision. ADULT SUPERVISION IS REQUIRED.

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