With a recent April crackdown of illegal all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) in Philadelphia, not as many have been seen in the streets or parks. The new law promises a higher penalty fee for using or parking ATVs illegally.
Section 117.1 of this ordinance states that “no person shall operate, park, stop, stand, place or maintain any all-terrain vehicle on any public sidewalk or any public property, including without limitation any park or recreation facility.”
If this law is broken, the ATV must be given up to authorities. However, if the violator does not own the ATV or the owner was not aware of the usage, there is a civil penalty of up to two thousand dollars.
Ortiz, Community Relations Officer, and Officer Hall of the Philadelphia Police Department 14th District confirmed that ATVs are not allowed on city streets, but declined to further comment.
Many residents of Germantown are noticing that they have not seen these all-terrain vehicles as frequently riding up and down Philadelphia streets as they have in years past.
“I haven’t seen them much this summer. Usually they’re out all the time, but not really this year.” Said Bill Newman, owner of Newman’s Grill on Germantown Avenue.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, from 1999-2010 (most recent data) there were 15 deaths in Philadelphia County, PA due to accidents involving these all-terrain vehicles. These statistics include drivers, passengers and pedestrians.
In the entire United States, the compressed mortality from 1999-2010 shows 10,849 deaths from ATVs. The age group most affected being those in the 10-19 year old category at 2,456 deaths; a rate almost one and a half times that of the next most fatal age group of 25-34 year olds.
Dr. Robert McNamara, M.D., Chairman of Emergency Medicine at Temple University Hospital said “it’s recommended that under 16 shouldn’t even really be using them because it’s so dangerous.”
Dr. McNamara explained that most of the deaths are young males. “At that age a lot of people feel they’re invulnerable and unfortunately here in the trauma base we see that they’re not,” he said “what we see is the nasty end of the fun.”
“It’s tough to tell the young that they could get hurt, but if a parent has an influence I would say that they need to have a serious sit down,” said Dr. McNamara, “there are potential major consequences for buying an ATV and they really just shouldn’t be used on the streets in Philly, it doesn’t make any sense.”
Dr. McNamara also noticed there has been a decrease of deaths related to ATVs in recent years, but they still see it. “All the time we advise people that these are inherently dangerous things,” he said, “we try to encourage them to do the right things.”
Dr. McNamara recalled one tragedy a few years ago when a man in his twenties was rushed into the emergency room from a high rate of speed ATV accident. “He had devastating injuries, there was nothing we could do,” he said.
Upon arrival to the ER, staff searched the young man’s pockets for ID, where they discovered only hours prior he had purchased the vehicle. “He had the receipt in his pocket,” said Dr. McNamara, “young guy, taken out needlessly.”
If patients live, there are often major fractures, injuries to the spine and even paralysis. Dr. McNamara expressed his concern for the reckless behavior often associated with ATVs and some motorcyclists as well. “A lot of young people don’t want to wear a helmet,” he said.
Dorethea King, a Germantown resident, lost her 25-year-old son in 2004 when he was struck by a car on his new motorcycle. Her son, Terrence Huff, was not wearing a helmet.
Ms. King runs a free lunch and snack program in Fern Hill Park for local children. The park is known throughout the area as being a regular meeting site for ATV and motorcycle riders. She told us the story of her loss as two young children sat and listened while they ate.
“He had just got the motorcycle so he didn’t really know how to master it,” she said, “I believe in my heart if he would have had a helmet there wouldn’t have been that much damage to his head.”
Caught by a driver as Mr. Huff was riding his new bike around the block, he was thrown to the sidewalk where he hit his unprotected head. “There was blood coming out both of his ears,” continued Ms. King in a somber tone.
Her story ended when she told us the final conversation she had with her late son. “That morning I had said to him, Terrence when I get home you better have my money…and he said I’m not going to be here when you get home. Had I known I wasn’t going to see my child alive again I would’ve never left for work, I would’ve stayed home.”