Here's a safety wake-up call for outdoor adventure seekers: Six-time Olympic swimming gold medalist Amy Van Dyken-Rouen severed her spine in an all-terrain vehicle accident in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Friday. The ATV she was driving hit a curb in a parking lot and she fell down a drop-off that was estimated to be between 5 to 7 feet. Van Dyken-Rouen, 41, had surgery to stabilize her spine and is currently in good condition in the ICU unit at Scottsdale Osborn Medical Center.
From 1999 to 2011, ATV accidents were connected to an average of 745 estimated deaths and 128,000 estimated emergency room visits per year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). That's two deaths every single day.
While we don't know all of the details about Van Dyken-Rouen's accident, here are seven things the CPSC wants you to know before riding an ATV.
Take a hands-on training course where you learn how to drive an ATV and how to control it in common situations.
Wear a helmet
Many ATV injuries are head injuries, the CPSC says, and wearing a helmet can reduce their severity. Use one that's meant for motorcycles or other motorized sports. (People reported that Van Dyken-Rouen wasn't wearing a helmet.)
Just like on a motorcycle, you should cover your extremities to protect against cuts and other injuries. The CPSC recommends wearing over-the-ankle boots, goggles, gloves, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt.
Don’t ride tandem
The majority of ATVs are designed to carry only one person since drivers must be able to shift their weight freely in all directions in order to control the ATV. So don't carry any passengers on a single-rider ATV.
Don’t ride on pavement
These vehicles aren't meant to be used on pavement: they can be difficult to control on paved roads, plus there's a risk of crashing into cars or other vehicles. Stay out in nature.
Don’t ride under the influence
Just like with cars, alcohol can impair your reaction time and judgment. (Van Dyken-Rouen's husband, former Denver Broncos punter Tom Rouen, told police they hadn't been drinking.)
Don't let children ride adult ATVs
Children are involved in about one-third of all ATV-related deaths and hospital emergency room injuries. Children under 16 on adult ATVs are twice as likely to be injured as those riding youth ATVs, according to the CPSC.