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Child advocacy group blasts proposal to allow 6-year-olds to operate ATVs

Posted July 8, 2015

— Tucked among the myriad provisions in a 58-page regulatory reform bill passed last week by the Senate is a proposal to loosen the restrictions on who can operate all-terrain vehicles in North Carolina.

The bill, which is expected to be taken up in the state House next week, would lower the minimum age for children to drive an ATV from 8 to 6. It also would eliminate rules regarding the size of ATV engines for children 11 and younger and 12 to 15 in favor of restrictions listed on warning labels put on the ATVs by manufacturers.

Rob Thompson, policy director of advocacy group NC Child, called the idea a mistake.

"It would change it to what the industry recommended standards are, and we believe that public policy should be shaped by not only what the industry recommends but also by what pediatricians recommend," Thompson said.

North Carolina set the minimum age at 8 for ATV operation a decade ago, he said, as a compromise between the industry and the American Academy of Pediatrics, which discourages anyone younger than 16 to drive an ATV. An 18-month study preceded the change.

Since then, Thompson said, child deaths related to ATVs dropped by 59 percent in North Carolina, even though ridership increased. He said he's worried that trend will reverse if the age is lowered to 6.

"At about 6 years old, I can remember having a hard time even learning how to ride a bike, let alone getting behind a powerful machine that can go really fast, that can cause a lot of damage and really hurt me," he said.

People commenting on the WRAL News Facebook page were split on the proposal, with some parents saying they know children as young as 3 who have driven ATVs.

"They make ATVs age-appropriate for children with speed restrictions and engine cutoff controls for parents. Wear proper safety gear and watch your kids, and they are good," wrote Keirstin Cotto of Virginia Beach, Va.

The bill would require parents or guardians to be in "continuous visual supervision" of anyone younger than 16 operating an ATV.

Still, that's not enough for some people.

"You can be 6 to drive one of these, but you have to be in a seat belt in a car? It's like the Senate wants kids to get hurt," Brenda Childers Kidd posted on Facebook.

23 Comments

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  • Craig Allen Jul 10, 2015
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    Obviously you are not an English teacher. Perhaps you should go over to the library and look at THEIR dictionary. I'm sure THEY'RE willing to let you use it while you are THERE. No one ever said they condone sexually abusing a child. Over-reaching a bit?

  • Don Benfield Jul 10, 2015
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    The founders broke from England not to give you the right to live your life as you see fit and to be able to do what you wanted to do when you want to do it, but to be free to have their own government. The Founders were well aware that you needed laws and regulations for a well ordered society, something that recent generations have conveniently forgotten.
    Using your logic, a parent should be able to sexually abuse a child or to put a child in harm's way (such as operating powered vehicles at too early of an age) because that parent sees nothing wrong with it.
    And, one other thing, when you are trying to contract the words "they" and "are," it's "they're" not "their."

  • Steven Brown Jul 9, 2015
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    So how many of you that are against a youth on an ATV have a pool in your backyard, or a boat in the driveway, or visit your neighborhood pool, or go the beach and so on? There are far more accidental drownings than ATV deaths each year. (Roughly 6x more). Maybe we should ban swimming for those under 16 also, it is apparently unsafe...

  • Pat Demby Jul 9, 2015
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    Yes, yes, more government to save us! Please save us!!

  • Jay Tanenbaum Jul 9, 2015
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    I was wondering when someone would bring up our President. BTW, use your spell check, it's Obama.

  • Gen Lee Jul 9, 2015
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    actually there is a "net" against lawsuits like that for trying to get a huge payout. one is contributory negligence where if your negligence contributed to an accident then you can't really get a settlement.

  • Bobby Caudle Jul 9, 2015
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    I was riding a Honda minitrail at 6.

  • Norman Lewis Jul 9, 2015
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    Removing restrictions on engine size and age of riders would be against all common sense. How about a requirement to be able to pass this regulatory reform bill would be a provision absolving the producers and marketers of the ATV's from ALL responsibility relating to injuries to riders not related to product defects? That would mean no lawsuits when the inevitable injuries occur from young children operating these vehicles and the parents seek someone else to blame. Legally making the limits go away, would likely open up NC to liability lawsuits by opportunistic lawyers and irresponsible parents. They would say " they said it was OK" and expect "large cash awards" from the State for their own negligence.

  • Gen Lee Jul 9, 2015
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    Even if you don't allow it people will still let their kids do it. If you know the proper way to handle one and the safety procedures then most of the time you will be okay.

  • Heather Bruno Jul 9, 2015
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    Well considering my cousin got killed on one at just 10 years old, I am def not in favor of a 6 year old driving one. My son is only 5 and would not approve of him driving one by next year.

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