Small, speedy, lightweight snowmobiles are popular and readily available to children and adolescents in the snowbelt states. There are no uniform requirements for either vehicle registration or driver licensure. Therefore, the number and condition of snowmobiles, and the extent of their use, are unknown. Nevertheless, in 1985 the Consumer Product Safety Commission recorded 62 deaths directly attributable to snowmobiles. In addition, the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System reported that 12,687 snowmobile injuries were treated in emergency rooms in 1985, and another 11,829 injuries were treated in 1986. Of these, 18% occurred in children younger than 14 years of age and 48% occurred in adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 24 years. Three quarters of the accident victims were boys. Alcohol use was frequently mentioned as a contributing factor.
Head injuries are the leading cause of death; drowning is a close second. The risk of drowning is highest in early winter before lakes are firmly frozen and again during the spring thaw.1 Fractures of the lower extremity, frequently severe, are the most common nonfatal injury.2 Injury can also result from frostbite and hypothermia. Hearing loss can result from prolonged exposure to excessive engine noise.3
Snowmobiles are inappropriate for use by children and young adolescents and should not be used by children younger than 16 years of age. For these children, we recommend more developmentally appropriate winter recreational activities. Consistent with this recommendation, we believe that advertisements should not be directed at the young adolescent, nor should advertisements depict adolescents driving snowmobiles.
- Copyright © 1988 by the American Academy of Pediatrics