10 July 2015 - ATV’s are Not Toys

Repeat after me - “ATV’s are not toys!” They are not tricycles, they are not bicycles, they are not childhood toys, and one should always consider the age of the driver who is going to operate an ATV.

The ATV is a very useful tool on many farms and ranches across the United States, yet, there is a tendency to let young people treat them as though they are a toy or a recreational vehicle. That leads to the kind of headline that came across my desk a few days ago. The headline - ‘Girl Killed, Father Injured on ATV’.

A young girl visiting family in the country was killed and her father injured in an ATV accident on Saturday, July 4th. The daughter was the driver of the ATV, and her father was the passenger when the vehicle veered off the country road, traveled into a ditch, struck a tree and overturned. The young lady was just 12-years old.

I am not assessing blame because I realize young people mature at different ages. But you really have to consider the fact that young people, without the experience of driving or handling an ATV, wouldn’t be as quick to react to a sudden change of direction or an object suddenly appearing in front of them.

This story led me to examine what, if any, rules or laws we have governing the use of ATV’s on roadways, farms and ranches across the country. You know that I normally am against new regulations that seem to multiply faster than rabbits, but when it comes to safety, especially child safety, I change my mind about the need for rules.

Some states regulate ATV drivers almost as strictly as automobiles, limiting ATV driving to people above a certain age, who have an official ATV-specific driver’s license. Some states have no ATV requirements at all, while others have some unusual laws, like Alabama whose laws apply only to foster children, who must wear a helmet and seatbelt when on an ATV. Among states that do set minimum ages for ATV drivers, the youngest is six-years old, in New Mexico, South Carolina and Texas.

I don’t care what you as parents think, or what state laws say; six-years-old is way too young to operate a

ATV. I know 4-H’ers conduct programs to teach and educate ATV safety to young people, but they need the support of parents, safety officials and ATV manufacturers to teach “ATV’s are not toys!”. I hate this kind of a headline, and unfortunately, I see it far too often.

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