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ATV Safety This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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If I wanted to I could describe almost every detail of the evening of November 29, 2006. I could accurately describe the policeman whose black uniform blended in with that cold night's aura, or recall the shivers that ran down my spine as the officer approached my neighbors. What I can't adequately verbalize is my disbelief upon hearing him tell my neighbors that their 15-year-old daughter had been killed in an ATV ­accident.

All-terrain vehicles, also known as four-wheelers or quads, are small, open vehicles designed for one or two riders. They are commonly used recreationally and can be a lot of fun. If improperly operated, however, ATVs can turn a day of fun into a lifelong tragedy.

In 2006, ATVs were involved in the deaths of 903 people and injured 146,600 others. A large percentage of those injured suffer permanent damage to vital organs like the brain or spinal cord. Victims of ATV accidents may also sustain broken bones, burns, and limb amputations.

While the dangers of riding other open vehicles such as motorcycles are highly publicized, ATV safety issues are given minimal attention. Tragically, a lack of safety education has led to many unnecessary fatalities. Almost 53 percent of ATV riders fail to wear a helmet, even though head injuries account for 46 percent of ATV-related deaths.

“If something had been done about [ATV safety] years ago, my child most likely would still be with me,” Carolyn Anderson said during an appearance on “Good Morning America.” Her 14-year-old son, James, was killed riding an ATV.

I believe that America needs a national ATV safety awareness day. Not enough action has been taken to ensure that citizens stay safe while riding four-wheelers. A national awareness day would help everyone realize just how risky ATVs can be.

My neighbor's daughter, Analisa, died riding on the back of a speeding, swerving ATV. Doctors say she likely would have survived if she'd been wearing a helmet. I was there when her parents granted her permission to ride on the four-wheeler. Had I been properly informed about the dangers of ATVs then – had there been a national awareness day – I could have warned her about the risks of what she was about to do. Maybe I could have saved her life.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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