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ATVs and Kids: Dangers Abound

It's peak season for many outdoor sports, including all-terrain vehicle (ATV) riding. As millions of riders hit the trails, there are renewed warnings about the safety of ATVs.

"Early Show" Consumer Correspondent Susan Koeppen cited the Consumer Product Safety Commission, saying in the month of April alone there were 40 deaths on ATVs, 12 of them were children under 16. In May, 13 children were killed. As summer moves along, they expect deaths to go up. The CPSC is urging riders to take precautions to stay safe.

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All-terrain vehicles are fast, Koeppen said. They can reach speeds of more than 50 miles per hour, and they can go just about anywhere. There are more than 25 million ATV riders in the U.S.

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Kyle Rabe was an ATV rider. He started riding when he was 3 years old. He was using an adult-sized ATV by the time he was 8.

Sue Deloretto Rabe said her son loved riding ATVs.

"But if I knew then what I know now," she said, "he would have never been allowed to ride an ATV."

Kyle died at the age of 10, as he rode home on an ATV from a friend's house.

Sue said, "The ATV, they speculate, hit a rut and tipped sideways and just landed on him sideways."

According to Concerned Families for ATV Safety, each year roughly 100 children under the age of 16 are killed on ATVs, and 40,000 children are injured. Many of those crashes involve children riding adult-sized ATVs.

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Ty Van Hooydonk, of the ATV Safety Institute, says in the hands of a child ATVs are potentially fatal.

On one ATV shown by Koeppen, Van Hooydonk pointed out the clear warnings that the vehicle is not meant for a child.

Hooydonk said, "This machine clearly is not meant for anyone under the age of 16."

The warning labels may be there, but a recent investigation by the federal government found not everyone is paying attention. During undercover checks at dealerships in four states, the Government Accountability Office found seven out of 10 dealers willing to sell adult-sized ATVs for use by children.

During an "Early Show" undercover investigation, Koeppen found much of the same behavior.

Five out of 10 dealerships were willing to sell "The Early Show" a large ATV, even though they said we were buying it for a 14-year-old.

One salesperson told "The Early Show," "At 14 he could handle it. That's what I'd buy him because this here (the youth size) he'd be bored of in a week."

Koeppen asked Van Hooydonk what he thinks about what they found at the dealerships.

He replied, "That should not be happening. And those dealers should be reported to the manufacturer. It's absolutely incorrect."

The ATV Safety Institute says parents should only buy their children smaller ATVs specifically designed for kids 6 and up, and it's crucial that they take a training course before getting on an ATV.

Van Hooydonk told Koeppen, "You have instruction on how to drive your car, and you want to have the proper instruction when you go out and ride an ATV as well."

After her son's death Sue Rabe started the support group Concerned Families for ATV Safety.

Rabe says, "We'd like to bring awareness to parents, so they don't say like we did 'if only I had known.'"

Her group would like to see laws in every state keeping kids under the age of 16 off ATVs. The atv industry has proposed model legislation that would require training courses, proper gear use and ban children from riding adult -sized ATVs.

Koeppen said ATV courses are available. She said manufacturers are now required to offer courses for free through the dealership where you are buying the ATV. However, even if you have an older ATV and you want to take a course, many of them are free and they are all across the country on any given weekend.

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