On the back roads or through unfamiliar territory, children and teens like the thrill of adventure of All Terrain Vehicles.
Susan Madramootoo's nephew Tony wanted to be like those kids and was thrilled when he got an ATV for Christmas in December 2005. But the excitement took a tragic turn not even a month later when Tony rode the four wheeler into a restricted area. "There was a chain up to prevent anyone from driving back in that area," remembers Susan. "He hit the chain. Even though he had a helmet on, when it threw him over the four wheeler, he broke his neck. It killed him instantly."
Tony was only 11-years-old. Now Susan can only look at family pictures and wonder how something that was supposed to be so fun could go so wrong. "Everybody thinks it's not going to happen to them, but it only takes one second," said Susan.
ATV's are considered dangerous. But safety officials say educating children about them beforehand can prevent them from having a serious accident later.
Summer Patterson is an EMT and Paramedic with MedStar. She's seen first hand the kind of accidents an ATV can cause."Collisions with trees, with vehicles, roll over type injuries," she said.
But Summer is also a mom who lets her own children ride on the recreational vehicles, but only with adult supervision and always with a helmet.
"Helmets are no good if they don't fit properly," Summer warned. "Helmets are of no use if you buy them and the children don't wear them."
Summer believes there are ways to keep children safe while riding the ATV's, like making sure you and your children are familiar with the area they are riding in. Children should be properly trained on how to use the recreational vehicles and there should be a parent riding with them or watching them at all times.
Susan believes children and teens should take a safety training course before they ever start to ride ATV's. "Once it's done, it's done. You can't go back and fix it. Major head injury, total brain damage, those things can't be undone," she said tearfully.
She knows it won't bring her nephew back, but she hopes if others take safety precautions now, it will change the fate of someone else.