On July 5, in recognition of National Injury Prevention Day, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) is highlighting the importance of all-terrain vehicle (ATV) safety and reminding residents that riding safely and responsibly can help prevent serious injury and death.
“ATVs can be an exciting way to explore the outdoors, especially during the summer months,” said Mia Brown, manager of SMDHU’s substance use and injury prevention program. “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.”
In 2020, there were 439 emergency department (ED) visits for ATV-related injuries across Simcoe Muskoka, accounting for almost 75 per cent of all off-road motor vehicle injury-related ED visits. That year the ATV-related injury ED 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 overall.
Simcoe Muskoka’s ATV-related ED 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 ED visits had been consistently declining.
Children and youth are especially at risk for ATV-related injuries and death. Of all local ED 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 Brown. “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. More information on the Ontario legislation for off road vehicles is available from the Ministry of Transportation
The health unit urges residents to apply the following safety tips that can 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.
National Injury Prevention Day has been established by Parachute Canada, a national charity dedicated to reducing the devastating impact of preventable injuries and helping Canadians to live long lives to the fullest through education and advocacy. For more information about ATV safety, visit www.parachutecanada.org.
For additional information, data and resources about injury prevention visit www.smdhu.org.