Arkansas is a rural stateand for many families ATVs are just a part of life but they aren't toys.
The natural state ranks 5th in thenation for ATV related injuries. Last year, more than 90 Arkansas children werehospitalized following ATV wrecks and for some of those children, they nevermade it home.
Last fall, Colby Smotherswas a star on the Sheridan High School football team. He had everything going his way until October22. That's the day Colby and his twobest friends, Zach Godwin and Dylan Neal, made plans to celebrate Colby'sbirthday with a day of 4-wheeling. Allthree boys were on one 4-wheeler when they made a fatal decision.
"We just usuallyramped the road. Just try to ramp the road and have fun," said Colby.
As the boys came up andover the highway, they hit a truck. Zachdied. Dylan had severe orthopedic injuries and Colby suffered major injuries aswell.
"He had a laceratedspleen, a broken arm, a dislocated shoulder and a very traumatic brain injury,"said Colby's mom, Renee James.
A brain injury so severe,his mother was told it would be a miracle if he made it through the night andif he did survive, he may never wake up.
"I was prepared to takecare of him whether he laid there and never woke up or whether he woke up andwasn't Colby. I was prepared for that andI think any mother would be," said Renee.
Thankfully, Colby did wakeup, but the star athlete had to relearn everything including how to walk andtalk. He's made remarkable progress.
"Football - that was mybest sport. I can't play no more. If I get hit, it's done," said Colby.
Not only will he neverplay football again and he'll never see his friend Zach again.
"There isn't a day thatgoes by I don't think there's an hour of a day that goes by that he doesn'tthink about Zach," said his mom.
None of the boys in thatwreck were wearing helmets. It's something Colby regrets and it is one of themost important rules to follow when riding and ATV.
The American Academy of Pediatricsrecommends children under the age of 16 should not drive or ride on an ATV atall. Once a child is 16, they shouldtake an ATV safety course before being allowed to ride. When it comes to passengers, operation shouldbe restricted to just one person even if the 4-wheeler is built for more.
Dr. Mary Aitkin, Directorof Injury Prevention at Arkansas Children's Hospital, says parents need tofollow and enforce the rules.
"These are really notaccidents because they're predictable and preventable and with the right,simple interventions, we can really reduce the number of ATV injuries here inArkansas," said Dr. Aitkin.
Making Arkansans moreaware of ATV safety is now a new mission for Colby and his mother. As he continues to recover, Colby says hewants to make sure no other kids go through what he's had to endure.
"Whatever you do, justdon't jump no public highway," said Colby.
For an ATV safety coursenear you, you can contact your local cooperative extension service.