OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Michael McLaughlin, a father of four, has owned a UTV for seven years. He sees value in driving them. It's a way to teach his kids about responsibility.
"Awareness: they ask questions," McLaughlin said. "'Why are we stopping at stop signs? Why do we look both ways? Why do we, when we go into a turn, why are we, put our foot on the brake and not accelerate through.' Simple things like that, before they get behind the wheel."
But Nebraska Medicine Trauma Surgeon Dr. Zachary Bauman often sees a different type of behavior.
"A lot of people, they try to do tricks or try to get a little bit cocky, if you will, when they are riding the ATVs. And they want to do too much on it. Maybe more than they can actually handle," Bauman said.
Starting in April, Bauman sees an uptick in ATV accidents. They can result in fractured ribs, broken collarbones and shoulder blades — even traumatic brain injury.
"We've seen both children and adults that have been paraplegic or quadriplegic from ATV accidents. We've seen them be in a coma, in basically a lifelong coma from bad traumatic brain injury," Bauman said.
Protecting the head is of utmost importance, so make sure to wear a helmet and limit the number of people on ATVs — no more than two at a time.
"Trying to keep your terrain flat, trying to go on known terrain when you start exploring areas you aren't familiar with, you run the risk of running off a cliff of some sort or a ditch or a big hole you did not know existed," Bauman said.
Ultimately managing fun "responsibly" is key to keeping your family safe.
"Like anything in life, there's inherent risk and if you use it safely, I think you can benefit, so for us, we use it as family time," McLaughlin said.
Bauman also wants to stress: make sure you don't let your kids drive the ATVs unsupervised. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids under 16 should not operate off-road vehicles.