Officials say charges could be laid after a young girl was airlifted to the Alberta Children’s Hospital when the ATV she was riding on a rural road north of Calgary rolled on Sunday afternoon.
The 14-year-old girl was driving a quad with two other children, ages 12 and eight, southwest of Linden, when the accident happened.
The girl was airlifted to hospital by STARS with serious injuries while the two other children were taken by ground ambulance to hospital with minor injuries. RCMP said they were not wearing helmets.
New rules came into effect last spring in Alberta requiring all off-highway vehicle (OHV) riders to wear helmets on public land. The minimum age for OHVs on public roads is 14.
On private property, there is no age restriction, but the driver must be supervised by an adult. Alberta also doesn’t have rules about the size of the machine a young person can be in control of.
“When we talk about ATV safety, there’s general guidelines,” said Luree Williamson with Ag for Life, an Alberta charity that takes its message of rural and farm safety to schools and community events.
“Under those guidelines, it’s recommended that youth under the age of 16 always ride an age-appropriate machine.
“It’s recommended that a 16-year-old is not on an adult ATV. It’s just too big. It’s too powerful. So we may need to make sure that if the children are going to be using it, it’s an age-appropriate size … based on their age, their weight and their maturity level and how to operate the equipment.”
There are also no restrictions regarding the number of riders on an ATV, but Williamson suggests a simple rule of thumb for that.
“Equipment that is made with one seat, means one rider. When we start putting multiple riders on, there is a shift of the weight distribution and it’s just a lot harder to control,” Williamson said.
Dr. Don Voaklander, director at the Injury Prevention Centre, believes there needs to be more parental involvement.
“We use more ATVs per capita than any other province. I think we need a sober second look at how these are operated and what we are doing to prevent injuries,” Voaklander said.
According to Alberta Transportation, any charges against a minor when it comes to seatbelt and helmet use would be laid against their parent or guardian.
RCMP are still investigating and could not say Monday whether charges would be laid.