Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Minneapolis paper's 'Risky Riding' series examines dangers of children riding ATVs

ATVs are a common sight in rural areas—often used for work and recreation—but almost as common are accidents, often involving young riders going too fast, not wearing a helmet, riding the wrong-sized vehicle, drinking and driving or wandering too close to traffic. (Star Tribune photo by Jim Gehrz: Owen Farmer, 11, of Faribault, Minn., driving through a safety obstacle course)

Despite calls from federal regulators, doctors and even many within the ATV industry that only adults should be allowed to ride, "40 states have laws and rules allowing children younger than 16 to drive ATVs designed for adults," and 19 have no age limit, Jeffrey Meitrodt and Mike Hughlett report for the Star Tribune in Part 2 of a five-part series called "Risky Riding."

In Minnesota, lawmakers dropped the age limit from 16 to 12 for driving adult ATVs and require children to take a training class, Meitrodt and Hughlett write. "Minnesota state Rep. Tom Hackbarth, a Republican who co-sponsored the state’s current ATV regulations, contends that children will ride adult ATVs, regardless of the law or ATV warning labels." Hackbarth says required safety training and parental supervision are the best ways to protect children.

But safety training is something that is lacking, Meitrodt and Hughlett write. The Star Tribune examined 139 ATV accidents involving youth, finding that only 17 had gone through safety training. Overall, there are an estimated 10.7 million vehicles in the U.S., according to data from 2011. (Read more) To read Part 1 of the series, click here.

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