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Children’s Hospital launches ATV safety education program

Oct. 4, 2018, 8:33 AM

Students from six counties took part in the recent Tennessee ATV Safety Program kickoff event, which included observing a simulated trauma incident in the Emergency Department. (photo by Nathan Morgan)

by Jessica Pasley

For as long as India Dial could remember, riding all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) at her in-laws’ farm was a fun pastime.

That all changed Sept. 7, 2015.

“It was Labor Day and we were having a picnic and barbecue,” recalled Dial. “After we ate, all of the kids went off to ride four-wheelers. We were on the farm, so it was right in the backyard.

“Five minutes later, we heard screaming. One of my children yelled that there had been a wreck.”

Dial and her family ran to find her oldest child, Arianna Hamilton, unresponsive and covered in blood. They waited for the ambulance. After an initial examination on site, the EMTs called for an emergency helicopter to take her to Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

Arianna Hamilton was seriously injured while riding on an all-terrain vehicle.

Hamilton, now 14, spent seven days in the hospital, half of which were in the pediatric intensive care unit on a ventilator. She suffered a traumatic brain injury with multiple brain bleeds, an orbital socket fracture and a collapsed lung.

“They were not wearing helmets,” said Dial. “They had never worn helmets and we didn’t think anything of it. She was also a passenger on the back of the four-wheeler. It’s something we all grew up doing.

“It wasn’t until after her accident that we learned about the recommendations for operating an ATV. None of us knew. There’s a lot of education that needs to be done. People need to be aware of the dangers.”

The Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention Program at Children’s Hospital is launching a new ATV safety initiative to arm high school students with information about ATV usage.

The Tennessee ATV Safety Program kicked off Friday, Sept. 28, with a daylong hospital session focused on giving students from six counties the necessary tools to support a yearlong campaign in their schools and communities.

According to Purnima Unni, MPH, Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention manager, ATV-related injuries are the third leading cause of trauma admissions for the hospital and accounted for 69 hospital admissions in 2017.

“Two common things we see with our ATV trauma patients — they are not wearing helmets and they are either carrying passengers or are a passenger themselves,” said Unni. “Both can result in serious injuries. Head injuries are the leading cause of death and disability in ATV-related crashes.

“It is our hope that through this peer-to-peer initiative we can foster an environment where students can help spread the known risk that these vehicles pose and encourage safe driving and riding practices among their peers in their communities.”

Funded by a grant through Farm Bureau Health Plans, the hospital is partnering with Tennessee 4-H, Tennessee Future Farmers of America (FFA) Association and the Tennessee Coalition for OHV Safety to implement the program in Bedford, Cannon, Clay, Giles, Robertson and Trousdale counties.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Surgeons the following safety measures are strongly recommended:

  • Children 16 and younger should not ride ATVs due to the high risk of injuries.
  • Always wear protective gear, especially a helmet.
  • Avoid driving ATVs with a passenger or riding as a passenger.
  • Do not drive ATVs on paved roads.
  • Do not permit children to drive or ride adult ATVs.

During the intensive hospital session, students will be involved in a mock trauma simulation in the Emergency Department and be assigned an “injury” from the rehabilitation team to help them better understand the risks ATVs pose.

The group will also discuss ATV awareness campaigns that can be explored within their schools and communities.

“Arianna would like to serve as an advocate to raise awareness about the dangers of ATVs,” Dial said of her daughter. “Since her accident she is more conscientious about safety, and no one in our family has ridden the ATV or go carts.

“Programs like the one at Children’s Hospital are wonderful,” she said. “Just a year ago, we found out that the EMTs and air evac personnel gave Arianna a 10 percent chance of making it. That was really hard to hear. These kinds of accidents are completely avoidable. We just need to educate people.”

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