In an article on page A1 of today's National Post ("All-terrain vehicles: not-so-silent killers"), Dr Louis Francescutti takes Canadian governments to task for failing to protect children and teens from ATV injuries:
"If we were to view injuries similarly to how we view other diseases, then we would do something about it. But, unfortunately, politicians and Canadians have this fatalistic attitude: 'It was an accident, a freak accident, time is up, ticket's up, wrong place at the wrong time...'Dr Francescutti, a University of Alberta epidemiologist who specializes in injury control (here's his website), would like to see a national strategy to protect youths from ATV-related injuries and deaths.
"There are thousands of these [incidents] that go on across the country on an hourly basis. It's insane that we just sit back and claim that we're civilized; that there's no public uproar."
The threat is surprisingly large: according to a 2006 Safe Kids Canada review (PDF), an average of 400 Canadian kids 14 and under were hospitalized per year between 1994 and 2000 as a result of ATV injuries. The growing trend among Alberta teens of drunk ATV-driving doesn't help matters, says Dr Francescutti. "There is a minority of knuckleheads out there whose idea of a good time is letting the wind blow through your hair while you're liquored on a Friday night. That's a pattern we usually see here on a Friday night. People doing stupid things and paying the consequences."
Some provinces have made an effort to prevent youth injuries by requiring ATV drivers to be of a minimum age -- 16 in Quebec, for example; you can check other provinces' laws here (PDF) -- but others appear to be moving in the opposite direction (although, granted, that photo above is a bit of an exaggeration).
Take Nova Scotia, for instance. In the National Review of Medicine's July issue, I reported the following item:
ATVs-for-kids scheme galls MDsSometimes "health promotion" policy isn't all it's cracked up to be, I guess.
HALIFAX — Spending $230,000 on all-terrain vehicles for kids was, in retrospect, "not the appropriate thing to do," admitted Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald. Complaints poured in about the Ministry of Health Promotion project not just from taxpayers but from concerned physicians as well. The ATVs were purchased for "safety programs" for kids 6 to 15, and to study the health benefits of ATV riding. Doctors Nova Scotia and officials at the IWK Health Centre say children under 16 shouldn't use ATVs.
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