CHICAGO -- With winter approaching, the American Academy of Pediatrics wants curbs on snowmobiling and says children should not be allowed to drive the vehicles.
Some states have no age restrictions. Others allow children as young as 8 to ride alone if they have completed a safety course.
"Evidence is lacking that operator safety certification courses adequately educate children and youth to operate snowmobiles safely," the academy says in new guidelines published in November's issue of the journal Pediatrics.
According to the guidelines:
--Children younger than 16 should not operate snowmobiles.
--Children younger than 6 should not ride on them.
--To be licensed, drivers should first obtain a learner's permit through a state-sanctioned course.
--All drivers and passengers should wear helmets.
--Drivers should not drink alcohol before or during snowmobile use. Laws governing this are scarce, Bull said.
--Using a snowmobile to tow a saucer, inner-tube, sled or skier is not recommended.
--Snowmobiling ads should not be directed at young adolescents.
"Children do not have the skills to be the operator of snowmobiles," said Dr. Marilyn Bull, a professor at Indiana University School of Medicine and head of the academy's Committee on Injury and Poison Prevention, which drafted new academy guidelines.
With the popularity of snowmobiling increasing in recent years, the guidelines are an update of less stringent recommendations issued in 1988, Bull said.
In Minnesota, anyone born after Dec. 31, 1979, must have a snowmobile safety certificate to operate a snowmobile in the state. Children under 12 may drive snowmobiles in certain areas if they are accompanied by a parent, guardian or adult appointed by the parent or guardian.
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