Are quads and kids like oil and water?

Many families enjoy adventure holidays where hiking, rafting and quad biking abound. But not all adventure activities are truly toddler-friendly, one of the most controversial being quad biking. There are two schools of thought when it comes to quad biking for kids; Quads are said to teach children valuable lessons about riding later in life, as well as coordination, motor control (take that as you will) and, interestingly, how to follow directions. The second believes that quads are inherently dangerous and that children under a certain age (which varies between 12 and 16) should not be allowed to ride them, even under full adult supervision or on private land.

American research into the injury and death rates among children under the age of 16 while riding quad bikes revealed some pretty startling statistics. The actual death and injury rate has been described as “epidemic” proportions. In the 20 years between 1982 and 2002, over 500,000 children were injured while riding quad bikes or ATVs (All Terrain Vehicles), and since 1997 the number of injuries and fatalities has increased every year.

Most children injured or killed in quad bike accidents are under the age of 16, and the same age group is twice as likely as older drivers to require an emergency department after an accident. Children’s injuries are also likely to be more serious and require longer and more intensive treatment than older drivers. The most common are head and spine injuries.

Research conducted in New Zealand reveals figures that are perhaps even more startling than those from the US. The youngest quad driver involved in the accident was just two years old, the average age of the injured children was just over nine years. Only 14 percent of children injured in quad bike crashes wore a helmet, explaining the prevalence of skull fractures and facial injuries.

Researchers around the world are finding similar results (although no other two-year-old riders have been reported), which has prompted safety groups to call for tighter controls on quad riding and quad sales. Suggestions include certified mandatory training with all quad purchases and age restrictions on motor size.

Tips for Parents

When you and your child ride a quad bike together, there are a few important things to consider.

Choosing a Quad:

• Don’t skimp on quality. Your child’s life is at stake so now is not the time to try the very cheap unknown brand from Somalia. Brand names have a good reputation for a reason, and if something goes wrong, they’re easier to fix.

• Size matters. Many parents buy quad bikes that are too big for their kids so they last longer. This is a big mistake as kids don’t have the strength or skill to pilot quads at the best of times. If the bike is too big, the risk of an accident increases exponentially. It is very important that your child can easily reach all controls (handlebars, brakes and accelerator pedal). If quad biking is going to be a regular part of your child’s life, make sure they take good care of it so you can sell it at a reasonable price when the time comes for an enlargement.

• Be aware of safety features such as cut-off switches to prevent speeding.

• The younger the child, the smaller the motor. 50cc engines with a top speed of 6 km/h are all a child under five needs.

Safety first:

• Never leave your little biker unattended; even at 6 km/h, accidents can quickly occur.

• Always wear a helmet. Other safety gear such as gloves, elbow and knee pads, and goggles are also important.

• Never drive at night.

• Never drive on public roads.

• Never ride twice.

• Always treat other drivers with courtesy.

The bottom line is that quad biking can be dangerous, but with the right care, training, and equipment, it doesn’t need to be much more risky than mountain biking or rafting (especially on rapids) with your kids. Remember the tips, keep them in mind and your little rays of sunshine should be fine.

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