Primary Children’s Hospital Seeing Spike in Traumatic Injuries to Kids from ATV Accidents; Experts Say Education, Safety Awareness, and Proper Gear Are Key

After seeing a spike in ATV-related injuries in kids, child safety experts at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital are reminding riders to wear a helmet and to use the right safety gear to prevent tragedy.


Primary Children’s Hospital saw a 34 percent increase in the number of traumatic injuries in kids riding ATVs between 2019 and 2020. So far in 2021, the number of ATV-related injuries is on track to meet or exceed last year’s numbers.


“Sadly, many children do not survive their injuries suffered while riding ATVs,” said Jessica Strong, community health manager at Primary Children’s Hospital. “Wearing a helmet, every ride, every time, and getting educated before heading out on the trails, would prevent many of these tragedies.”


Karen Hale’s daughter Chelsea Anne Hale died in 2001 at age 20 following injuries from an ATV accident. Chelsea was not wearing a helmet.


“We lost an incredible young woman with a bright future,” said Hale, a former Utah legislator and past chair of Primary Children’s Hospital Board of Trustees. “We hope other families do not experience such a tragedy.”


“A helmet and other protective clothing while riding ATVs is critical to saving lives,” Hale said. “Riders need to be trained and should only use ATVs with the size and power that matches their size and experience level. This is a family matter that should be discussed so everyone knows how to keep themselves safe.”


ATV and other “Healthy Kids” injury prevention initiatives are part of Intermountain Healthcare’s “Primary Promise” to create the nation’s model health system for children.


Utah has more traumatic brain injuries among children than almost any other state in the country, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control.


ATV crashes play a major role in that statistic. Children are 1,000 times more likely to be injured riding on an ATV than riding in a car, according to the Utah Department of Health.


Emelia, age 11, was riding in a side-by-side ATV last September when it rolled and pinned her to the ground. The Las Vegas girl was flown from Sanpete County, Utah, to Primary Children’s Hospital for treatment. Doctors say it’s miraculous she survived.


“She had broken facial bones and a broken collarbone, and had three cardiac arrests,” Emelia’s mother Jessica said. “Surgeons had to reattach her trachea to her lung, and she underwent weeks of rehab following oxygen deprivation to her brain. It’s amazing, seeing her heal as quickly as she did.”


Emelia’s mother says her helmet saved the girl’s life. But she later learned that Emelia’s seatbelt was not securely fastened, and she fell out while other passengers remained in their seats during the crash.


“Adults should make sure seatbelts are secure for all children before driving,” the mother said. “Families should talk about rules before they ride, such as not riding with new drivers or others without permission, and never leave the keys in an unattended ATV. Also, if you know you’ll be in a no-service zone, make a plan so you have a way to call for help in an emergency.”


Chris Haller, off-highway vehicle (OHV) program coordinator for the Utah Department of Natural Resources, says there has been an uptick in OHV ownership during the pandemic, with 17,000 new vehicles registered in 2020. The state now has 214,000 registered OHVs.


“More people on Utah’s 80,000 miles of trails is a good thing,” Haller said. “A lot of the injuries we see, though, are happening to people new to the sport, often because these vehicles handle very differently from a regular vehicle. Getting educated before your ride and taking eight seconds to click your seatbelt and buckle your helmet, makes a huge difference in safety.”


Utah’s ATV safety certification course is offered in person and online at, where Utah trail maps, laws and rules, and events also are found.


Every rider should be certified, but for children under 16 or without a driver license, it’s the law, Strong said. 


Strong offers these additional tips to keep kids safe on ATVs:

  • Replace helmets that have been worn in a crash or expired (helmets are designed to last two to five seasons).
  • Make sure the helmet fits you and your children before the first ride of the year. Remember, kids outgrow helmets like they outgrow everything else.
  • Ensure you and your children know how to ride.
  • Protect yourself from head to toe with a helmet, goggles, long-sleeve shirt, gloves, sturdy pants, and over-the-ankle boots.
  • Be responsible for your ride and keep yourself and others safe. Stick to the right number of riders per ATV, including the right age and size for the vehicle.
  • Don’t ride beyond your skill level. Stay off paved roads.

Emelia’s mother Jessica hopes these safety tips can help others avert the near tragedy her family faced. Today, Emelia shows no sign of the injury she suffered last September. She continues to play violin, make unique art from all-recycled materials, and is happy to show her back handsprings to her therapists using Intermountain Telehealth.


“I know that these kinds of accidents don’t always have a good outcome,” Jessica said. “We’re just grateful to have our daughter and to have a second chance to be her mom and dad, and we hope our story can help others.” 


Intermountain Healthcare’s “Primary Promise,” a historic investment of at least $500 million to create the model health system for children, will be shared by Intermountain Healthcare and community philanthropic support through an emerging campaign organized by Intermountain Foundation.


NOTE: Video b-roll and images can be downloaded here.



After seeing a spike in ATV-related injuries in kids, child safety experts at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital are reminding riders to wear a helmet and to use the right safety gear to prevent tragedy.