08/30/2012 12:38 EDT | Updated 10/30/2012 05:12 EDT

Ban Children From Driving ATVs, Pediatric Group Says


The Canadian Paediatric Society is calling for a national ban on children driving all-terrain vehicles.

Dr. Natalie Yanchar, who is the group's chair of injury prevention and a surgeon at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, says she has seen too many broken bodies and too many deaths from ATV accidents.

She contends it's evidence children under the age of 16 lack the knowledge, physical size, strength, and cognitive and motor skills to operate the machines safely.

"Until something else changes, we can only recommend children don't ride them because they come with such a high risk of injury and these can be devastating injuries," she told CBC News.

"The highest risk of injury is really between sort of [ages] 10 to 25."

The pediatric society has previously called for ATV age restrictions over the years.

But it released a new position statement on Thursday.

Other measures not working

Yanchar maintains an age restriction is still necessary because injury prevention measures currently in place clearly aren't working.

During the past five years, an average of 447 children under the age of 15 were hospitalized every year for ATV-related injuries, according to the society. For those aged 15 to 19, there was an average of 506 admissions per year.

In addition, an average of 179 Canadians die each year from ATV-related trauma. Almost 40 per cent of those who died were aged 19 and younger, the report states.

"And that is despite government and industry efforts and local efforts to say, 'Take training. Don't take on passengers. Wear a helmet. Use a small vehicle. Don't ride an adult-sized vehicle,'" said Yanchar.

"All these recommendations and these efforts have been out for years and years … yet the numbers keep on going up. So they're not working."

The society would also like to see helmets and safety-training courses made mandatory in every province.

Under the current rules in New Brunswick, children aged six and older are permitted to drive smaller, less powerful machines.

Drivers under 16 are supposed to stay on closed trails, or ride where the property owner has given written permission.

Everyone is required to wear a helmet.