HAMMOND, LA (WVUE) - An ATV accident that left the niece of Britney Spears in critical condition over the weekend is sparking concern with some parents over the safety of all-terrain vehicles.
Maddie Spears Aldridge, 8, was driving a Polaris ATV on family property in Tangipahoa Parish when she tried to avoid a drainage ditch and over-corrected, flipping the vehicle into a nearby pond, according to Tangipahoa sheriff's deputies.
Deputies said she was wearing a seatbelt, and safety netting on the vehicle prevented an easy escape before EMS and family, who were supervising the girl, were able to free her.
"You can never be too safe on ATVs. I mean, not anything to play with, you know. Accidents do happen, unfortunately," said Al Landry, a grandparent at Aldridge's school.
Mark Ma, the owner of On Wheels Motorsports in Hammond, said parents who want to let their children ride ATV-type vehicles can take special precautions like adjusting a speed governor available on most models.
"The screw cannot touch all the way there so it cannot push a lot of gas. If you cannot push a lot of gas you cannot drive fast," Ma said as he demonstrated on a pink go-cart.
In fact, nearly every vehicle Ma sells that's designed for younger riders comes with a special 'kill switch' that allows supervising parents to kill the engine if the child drives too fast, effectively putting the control of the vehicle in the parents' hands.
"This is an engine, just like a car. You don't consider this as a toy. This is actually a functional engine, it can go pretty fast," Ma said.
For some parents, 8 is too young to ride. Instead, they'll wait until their children are teenagers, but even then they know there is always a risk and the best thing you can do is teach your children while they're young to put safety first.
"Because you know what? Nowadays all kinds of stuff is going on, so I mean, something's going to happen regardless. Just got to hope for the best," said parent Keisha Cain.
Tangipahoa Parish Deputies said Aldridge is in critical but stable condition. She is recovering now in an undisclosed location.