Summer is a time for family and fun. But some forms of fun come with life-threatening hazards if appropriate cautions are not taken. Not least of these are hazards associated with all terrain vehicles ridden by many children under the age of 18. Close to 90 percent of ATV crashes in Oklahoma occur with drivers under age 16 driving an adult-sized ATV.

From 2007 to 2009, there were 35 ATV-related deaths in Oklahoma, according to ATV Ride Safe Oklahoma. And, Ride Safe reports, of 117 ATV victims treated at The Trauma One Center at OU Medical Center in 2011, 60 were children under the age of 18. Oklahoma averages more than 15 ATV-related deaths per year and has one of the nation’s highest rates of injury for children 16 and under.

Fortunately for 17-year-old Wesley Troxtell of Durant, he survived to tell the story of his collision. Troxtell and his father had traveled to Texas to ride their ATV. Wesley Troxtell had stopped at an intersection after completing a ride.

“I popped a wheelie on my ATV and out of nowhere, I got T-boned by a guy,” he said.

“He doesn’t remember much about the accident although, bits and pieces are starting to come back,” mother, Linda Troxtell said.

“I went flying in the air,” Wesley Troxtell said. “My four-wheeler flipped over four times.”

He was not wearing a helmet. His father watched as rescue workers hooked his son to breathing machines and lifted him into a medical helicopter. It took three hours for his father to get in touch with wife, Linda.

“I just sat the phone down and started screaming. I started running through the house grabbing stuff,” she said. “I finally came to my senses and started getting things in order.”

Wesley Troxtell suffered a traumatic brain injury and a broken arm.

“When we got him his four-wheeler, we thought he would be okay, and that he would be more cautious than the other children,” Linda Troxtell said. “It didn’t work out that way. Kids get on them and think they can drive really fast and nothing is going to happen to them, but it does.”

After a one week stay in the intensive care unit, he was admitted to The Children’s Center in Bethany, Okla. for rehabilitation. Today, he is walking and talking again, and sharing his story with others about the dangers of four-wheelers.

“We believe that it’s a miracle that he has achieved, what he has achieved in such a short time,” his mother said.

ATV Ride Safe Oklahoma encourages Oklahomans to ride safe, every ride, every time. This initiative asks riders to take precautionary measures before hopping on a four-wheeler this summer.

From 1982 to 2007, there were 9,223 ATV-related fatalities in the United States.

Over a nine-year period from 1997 to 2006, hospitalizations for ATV injuries increased 150 percent among riders younger than 18.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends delaying ATV use until age 16.

ATV Ride Safe Oklahoma recommends that everyone take a 4-H facilitated ATV Safety Program ASI Rider Course before riding an ATV, and encourages direct adult supervision of young riders.

“Parental supervision is a key element to a child’s safety and children under the age of 16 must be supervised at all times when operating an ATV. Parents literally hold the key to their children’s safety. Every ATV has an ignition key, and when a parent or guardian controls the key, they control the use,” Mike Klumpp, Oklahoma 4-H ATV Safety Coordinator said.

Recent research demonstrates that children under the age of 16 continue to suffer a disproportionate share of injuries, do not wear a helmet, and fail to receive formal ATV training.

Across Oklahoma, 17 educators are ASI licensed instructors who deliver the four-to-five hour, hands-on ASI ATV RiderCourses. The goal is to provide training to both youth and adult participants.

“Through implementation of this statewide program, we will provide the educational components needed to develop critical thinking skills and good decision-making skills resulting in a change in ATV-related behaviors and a reduction in ATV-related injuries and deaths in Oklahoma,” Klumpp said.

For more information about ATV safety classes in Oklahoma, please visit www.RideSafeOK.org. The web site allows visitors to take an online safety class and sign up for a free ATV RiderCourse.

ATV Ride Safe Oklahoma is a joint safety and education initiative led by The Children’s Center, Trauma One Injury Prevention at OU Medical Center and Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service 4-H Youth Development.

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