Neurological injury and death in all-terrain vehicle crashes in West Virginia: a 10-year retrospective review

Ann M Carr, Julian E Bailes, James C Helmkamp, Charles L Rosen, Vincent J Miele
Neurosurgery 2004, 54 (4): 861-6; discussion 866-7

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to profile all-terrain vehicle crash victims with neurological injuries who were treated at a Level I trauma center.

METHODS: We retrospectively reviewed trauma registry data for 238 patients who were admitted to the Jon Michael Moore Trauma Center at the West Virginia University School of Medicine after all-terrain vehicle crashes, between January 1991 and December 2000. Age, helmet status, alcohol and drug use, head injuries, length of stay, disposition, and hospital costs were studied. Death rates, head injuries, age, helmet use, and safety legislation in all 50 states were compared.

RESULTS: Eighty percent of victims were male, with an average age of 27.3 years. Only 22% of all patients were wearing helmets. Alcohol and/or drugs were involved in almost one-half of all incidents. Fifty-five of 238 patients sustained spinal axis injuries; only 5 were wearing helmets. One-third of victims (75 of 238 victims) were in the pediatric population, and only 21% were wearing helmets. Only 15% of victims less than 16 years of age were wearing helmets. There were a total of eight deaths; only one patient was wearing a helmet.

CONCLUSION: In the United States, all-terrain vehicles caused an estimated 240 deaths/yr between 1990 and 1994, which increased to 357 deaths/yr between 1995 and 2000. Brain and spine injuries occurred in 80% of fatal crashes. West Virginia has a fatality rate approximately eight times the national rate. Helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 64%, but only 21 states have helmet laws. Juvenile passengers on adult-driven vehicles are infrequently helmeted (<20%) and frequently injured (>65%). We conclude that safety legislation would save lives.

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