A five year old Liberty County boy was critically injured Monday when he crashed an All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) into a tree.
Virgil Fletcher (5) and his brother, Wyatt (12) were riding ATV's near their home in Hosford, when the crash occurred. Virgil was not wearing a helmet. The crash has left some people wondering why such young children were riding four-wheelers unsupervised and without proper protection.
The engine size for these type of vehicles is measured in cc's, At the time of the accident, Virgil was driving a 400cc Kawasaki four-wheeler. That's nearly triple the manufacturer's recommendation for a child of Virgil's size and age.
"The bigger the equipment the harder it is for a child to control. It weighs more, it's a lot bigger than they are. It's harder to steer, stop and control" said Megan Dixson. Her five year old son, Bryson Hamilton has been riding dirt bikes and four- wheelers for a year.
She admitted the sport made her nervous at times, but said they follow proper safety precautions. As Edwin Usery, owner of Usery's Associate Store explained, manufactures provide comprehensive guidelines intended for all drivers to follow.
"This checklist is pretty thorough as to what a parent's obligations are to the child for helping them operate it" Usery said. "We go over it with every parent who buys one."
Despite the warnings, ATV accidents have remained common in the Panhandle. Jackson County Paramedic, Wilfredo Arroyo told us, "when we respond to them, they're pretty serious."
Arroyo said he believed complacency was the primary cause of crashes. "Maybe they started out wearing a helmet, then got really good at riding a four-wheeler or a three-wheeler and said, 'I'm not going to wear it today. And usually, the time they don't wear it is the time they get injured."
Florida law requires anyone 16 or younger to wear a helmet, restrict their activity to private property and only ride with adult supervision.