This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
House Bill 237 would change the minimum age for riding all-terrain vehicles on public property. It's certainly a subject that needs to be addressed.
As the law stands now, kids as young as 8 can operate ATVs in Utah, and they're paying the price with their bones, their flesh and their lives.
But the proposed law won't solve the problem. Amazingly, it would lower the age limit, not raise it. It would put 6-year-old kids in the driver's seat.
Some special restrictions would apply. ATVs operated by children under 8 could not be capable of speeds over 15 mph. If they can go faster, a speed-limiting device must be installed to restrict them to 10 mph. But when a child rolls an ATV down a hill or rides one over the side of a cliff, believe us, they'll go much faster than that.
The proposed new law would also require riders under age 12 to be under the "direct supervision" of an adult. By direct supervision, they mean the adult must be within 300 feet of the child. We wonder how, from the length of a football field away, an adult can supervise a kid riding an ATV as loud as a chainsaw.
ATVs are already unsafe. According to the national Consumer Product Safety Commission, 120 children under age 16 died in ATV accidents in 2005, while 40,400 more sustained serious injury.
And despite a helmet law and mandatory training programs for Utah youths, the CPSC says 46 children under age 16 died in ATV accidents in the state between 1982 and 2001. Between 2002 and 2004, according to the Utah Department of Health, another 17 died, while 1,600 were injured in 2002 alone.
If HB 237 is approved we can expect even more injuries and deaths.
Fred Hayes, director of the state's Off-Highway Vehicle Program, said the proposal makes him "very uncomfortable." He said young children haven't "developed the cognitive or motor skills" to operate ATVs. We agree. We're talking about kids who have trouble tying their shoes.
We understand that parents have rights, too, but this isn't a parental rights issue. It's a kids' rights issue. Our kids should have the right to grow old.