A Qatar Obsession: Adventurous & Deadly… Here’s to a safer ATV ride
ATV safety tips on how to maximise your experience
In Qatar, all-terrain vehicles [ATVs] are thought of as toys or recreational vehicles and the majority of users do not think twice before getting on them for a day of fun on the dunes. The reality is that these are powerful and heavy vehicles originally intended for use as utility vehicles on farms and ranches. Some ATVs can attain speeds above 60 kmph while weighing more than 300-400 kg.
Here’s a look at some eye-opening ATV crash data based on HMC’s trauma registry from 2011-12. The Data is combined with a study conducted by Dr Ahmad Zarour, Consultant in Trauma and Director of the Trauma ICU et al (read below)
- 3-5% of all trauma admissions are victims of ATV crashes. This translates to about 70 severe injury cases for a year.
- 6 out of 7 victims are males, 1 out of 5 is a child [the youngest victim was 3 years old]
- 5% of the patients die from their injuries [Annually, there are at least 4-5 deaths due to ATV crashes in Qatar] and 7% suffer from a permanent disability [like paralysis]. The most common injuries were to the head [traumatic brain injuries], arms/legs [fractures], body [rib or pelvic fractures] and spine.
- Only 12% of the victims used protective equipment, like helmets, gloves or boots.
- Note: These are under-reports of the true toll from ATV crashes as not all are reported; some suffer from mild to moderate injuries [that do not need hospitalisation] and some die at the site of the crash. So the true picture of ATV injuries and deaths is probably much worse.
Remember that even the most efficient ambulance service that immediately brings patients to the best trauma centres cannot cure or undo the permanent paralysis or brain damage that occurs at the moment of impact. However, following these tips will certainly help.
- Get trained and certified in ATV safety: An ATV is a complex motor vehicle that requires formal instructions and/or training before one can drive one. A brand new ATV can cost from QR1,500 to QR5,000 and above. Some countries require a distinct ATV license for all ATV drivers. These licenses are issued on the basis of demonstrated competence in handling the vehicle and knowledge of the safety hazards.
- Most ATVs are designed for adults: The size, power and weight of an ATV require complex decision-making, impulse control and strength, which are not present in young children. For these reasons, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons does not recommend that children younger than 12 years old operate ATVs and that ATVs bigger than 90 cc in engine size should never be operated by persons under 16 years of age.
- ATVs are a solo sport: To drive an ATV safely, one must be able to adjust one’s position and shift weight in response to sudden changes in direction, speed and terrain. Riding with or as a passenger increases the chance that weight imbalance and instability will occur. These result in ATV rollovers and crashes; another reason that small children, with low body weights, should not be driving ATVs.
- Do not operate an ATV while under the influence of alcohol: Any substance [alcohol, recreational drugs, sedatives, tranquilisers and some medications] that impair reaction time and judgment makes for unsafe ATV use.
- Do not operate an ATV at night or on public roads: ATVs do not always have headlights, and the inability to see the terrain clearly and be seen by others make ATV trips at night riskier. Most ATVs have fixed rear axles which do not allow the inner rear wheel to rotate freely when turning, causing sudden release of torque which, on firm surfaces, promotes lurching and loss of control.
- Leave the stunt driving to professionals: The most common injury mechanisms are collisions and rollovers. Collisions may be with fixed objects [suddenly appearing walls, posts etc], with another ATV or with other vehicles. Children are more likely to be injured in collisions or in lateral rollovers while adults were most commonly injured in backward rollovers, a common mechanism when ascending hills or dunes or doing ‘wheelies’ or stunts.
How to protect yourself in the event of an ATV crash:
- Personal Protective Equipment is a must: Helmets, gloves, ankle boots and protective eyewear are needed to protect the ATV driver. Long sleeved shirts and long pants are also recommended to protect vulnerable skin.
- Choose an ATV with a driver restraint system: A full body harness [similar to that worn by Formula 1 drivers], anchored at the crotch and shoulders, will prevent ejection from the ATV and keep the driver in the safety cage.
- Choose an ATV with a rollbar: In the event of a rollover; a rollbar will protect the driver from the full weight of the ATV and the direct impact of the ground by creating a safety cage or box to reduce the force transmitted to his body.
Courtesy: Trauma section, Department of Surgery, Hamad General Hospital, Hamad Medical Corporation