Medical City Healthcare - April 12, 2018

If your weekend or vacation plans include a personal recreational vehicle, we've got tips to help you and your family avoid the ER and stay safe while having fun. Injuries involving personal recreational vehicles are so common that the American Trauma Society (ATS) is focusing its 30th anniversary on educating the public about how to prevent them. Most people recognize the safety risks of motorcycles, dirt bikes, ATVs and jet skis, but there's one personal recreational vehicle that made the ATS' list that might surprise you. Read on to find out which one and how to operate your favorites safely.

General personal recreational vehicle safety tips.

While safety rules and laws are different for each type of vehicle, there are some that apply to them all:

Motorcycle safety.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) reported no deathless days on Texas roadways in 2016. More than 265,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes. Nearly 500 motorcyclists were killed; 53% weren't wearing helmets when they crashed.

How to ride a motorcycle safely. recommends starting with a bike that is well-maintained and equipped with all of the appropriate essentials you might need for the trip that you'll be taking. The site also recommends wearing a helmet at all times regardless of state laws. Other motorcycle safety tips include:

  • Aim high when looking over handlebars at the road and keep your eyes moving to your mirrors and other views frequently
  • Drive defensively, just like you would in a car; always leave yourself an out
  • Ride with hands firmly but comfortably on handlebars
  • Pull over when you're tired or the weather turns bad

Dirt bike safety.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 95,000 children and teens under 19 were treated in emergency rooms for off-road motorcycle injuries between 2001 and 2004. In just that four-year period, the injury rate increased 34%.

How to ride a dirt bike safely.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation's online library includes safety booklets, quick tips, videos and a cool Seeing is Believing section where optical illusions illustrate how our minds can be tricked into perceiving visual data incorrectly. They also offer rider education and training and these safety rules for dirt bike riders:

  • Cover up: Always wear a DOT-compliant helmet, goggles, long sleeves, long pants, over-the-ankle boots and gloves
  • Stay off the pavement: Dirt bikes are meant to be ridden off road (with the exception of dual-purpose models) and should only be taken on paved surfaces to cross when done safely and lawfully
  • Consider age and maturity: Always supervise riders under 16 and make sure the bike fits the rider's size and capabilities
  • Buddy up: Don't ride alone on remote trails
  • Take a hands-on riding course

ATV safety.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that there were more than 215,000 ER visits from injuries caused by ATVs, mopeds and minibikes in 2016. The ATV Safety Institute's Golden Rules for safety are the same as those for dirt bikes, above, with one addition:

  • Never carry a passenger on a single-rider ATV and no more than one passenger on a 2-person ATV

Find a hands-on ATV rider course and check for product recalls at

Jet ski safety.

According to Discover Boating, the U.S. Coast Guard categorizes all personal water craft (PWC) as Class A vessels, which means all safety equipment and operation laws that apply to motorboats less than 16 feet in length also apply to a PWC. These are not toys — they average 10 feet in length, have the horsepower of a large outboard engine and the acceleration of a motorcycle.

How to ride a jet ski safely.

In addition to the general safety requirements for all vessels, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department lists these additional rules for the operation of a PWC in Texas:

  • All riders must wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket, or personal flotation device (PFD); inflatable life jackets are not approved for use on PWC
  • If the PWC is equipped with a cut-off or kill switch, it must be attached to the operator or operator's clothing
  • When operating a PWC in Texas, it's unlawful to:
    • Allow children under 13 to drive unless accompanied on board by a person 18 years of age or older who can lawfully operate the PWC
    • Ride at night (sunset to sunrise)
    • Ride within 50 feet of another PWC, motorboat, vessel, platform, person object or shore except at headway speed without creating a swell or wake
    • Jump the wake of another vessel recklessly or unnecessarily close

Enroll in a hands-on or online Boater Education Course. Be sure to learn how to right a capsized jet ski safely.

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Golf cart safety.

You didn't see that one coming, did you? According to the Tampa Bay Times, a person is killed each week in the U.S. from falling out of a golf cart. The CPSC estimates that there are 13,000 golf car related ER trips each year. The article suggests that most accidents occur during left turns, when passengers have nothing to hold on to and the "rail on the outside of the vehicle acts as a fulcrum that causes the person to fall up and over and onto his or her head."

How to ride a golf cart safely.

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles currently has little regulation for the operation of golf carts. The City of Horseshoe Bay Fire Department has created these golf cart safety tips, including:

  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions and heed all safety tips and warnings
  • Inspect your golf cart daily before use; if it's in need of repairs or a charge, don't drive it
  • Avoid sharp turns at high speeds
  • Don't let children drive
  • Use extreme caution in severe weather; a golf cart may shield you from the rain but it won't protect you from lightning strikes

Just like their unpowered counterparts — bikes, trikes, scooters and skates — personal recreational vehicles provide freedom and adventure for kids of all ages. It just takes a little bit of extra time and care to make sure everyone stays healthy and safe.

Always call 911 if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

For fast, expert care for any type of personal recreational vehicle accident, one of our many Medical City Healthcare emergency locations has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City Healthcare ER near you or call our free 24/7 Ask-A-Nurse hotline.

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