In a previous blog, we discussed the dangers of children using all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) or off-road vehicles (ORVs). The statistics for emergency room visits, deaths and health care-related costs in the billions of dollars each year for such ATV-related accidents are staggering. One study showed a huge increase in spinal injuries in children as a result of increased ATV use. The study also showed that the average age of riders injured on ATVs was 13 years old.
In an effort to counter those alarming numbers, Massachusetts enacted a law Aug. 1 that limits children’s abilities to ride ATVs. Before this month, 12-year-olds could use an ATV if supervised by an adult, and 10-year-olds could ride if they were on the private property of the adult who was supervising them. Now, no child younger than 14 is permitted to ride an ATV in most circumstances. (The age rules don’t apply to kids as young as 10 riding dirt bikes or snowmobiles on their parent’s property. There are also exceptions allowing kids aged 10 to 13 to ride in races or instructional events that have town permits issued to a supervising riding group for a staged event.) Additionally, riders from the age of 14 to 16 now have to be supervised directly by an adult over the age of 18.
The new regulations’ supporters believe the law will cut down on the number of children’s injuries and deaths that have resulted from these powerful machines.
However, there are a number of vocal opponents to the regulations that feel they go much too far. They wonder if horseback riding or football will be the next things to be regulated to protect children. Many feel that a responsible parent should be able to decide what activities their children should be allowed to participate in, and when. They acknowledge that some provisions of the rules — such as increased fines for driving an ATV while intoxicated — help make it a safer experience for everyone. But they feel they should have the right to teach their own children to use ATVs responsibly, and that these new rules take away their right to do so.