Unsafe at any speed

Read the Patriot LedgerOUR VIEW: Unsafe at any speed

By The Patriot Ledger

The recent death of an eight-year-old Plymouth boy while riding an adult-sized all-terrain vehicles signals a growing problem. More than 100 children a year nationwide share the same fate, and state lawmakers across the country are busy proposing news regulations and requirements.

Current Massachusetts law prohibits children under 10 from riding on ATVs. Children under 14 must be supervised by an adult. Helmets are required.

A Cape Cod lawmaker says that isn’t enough. Rep. Matthew Patrick, a Falmouth Democrat, is putting together a bill that:
  • requires ATVs to be registered or titled in Massachusetts
  • mandates police to report to the Department of Social Services instances of unsupervised children riding ATVs
  • compels mandatory training for riders under age 18
  • prohibits children under 16 from riding an adult-sized ATVs or adopts vehicle size limits for under-16 riders
  • imposes a 30-day drivers’ license suspension for parents whose children are caught riding without supervision

Battles over ATV safety mandates loom in state legislatures across the country, pitting child safety activists against industry advocates. Makers and dealers of the powerful machines say there are already enough regulations governing ATVs.

As an added wrinkle, enforcement of any ATV mandates is difficult. The recreational vehicles are popularly used off road, on private property, and away from the view of law enforcement.

Parents need not wait for Massachusetts lawmakers to act or the outcome of what promises to be a drawn-out ideological battle over legislating common sense. They can wake up now to the dangers of ATVs, particularly in the hands of the young and the reckless.

A group of mothers whose children were killed on adult-sized ATVs have formed Concerned Families for ATV Safety to spread awareness, provide information, and conduct discussion forums. The non-profit group’s web site, atvsafetynet.org, contains an interactive map with markers for ATV deaths across the country.

The word needs to get out: children should not be allowed to ride ATVs, and parents and dealers who allow that to happen are putting young lives at risk. There simply is no safe way for young thrill-seekers to play with these adult toys.
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