Be an adult: Don’t let kids ride ATVs

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 14, 2010

In Mississippi, this time of year is like no other. Mother Nature is torn, holding onto the final grasps of a Yankee-like winter while ushering in the warmth of spring.

The birds chirp a bit louder, the grass and flowers, dead since late last year, begin to regenerate for another summer. The smoke from barbecues melds perfectly with an evening chill. Baseballs start being thrown, golf balls hit, families gather and the buzz of the ATV motors sing in the distance.

Sean P. Murphy is Web editor. He can be reached at

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A perfect start to spring filled with fun and sun, but the season also provides a danger for every person who rides on or drives an ATV.

An ATV is no toy, and everyone should give careful thought before handing over the keys. Anyone who is not licensed to drive an automobile should not be licensed to drive an ATV. A 2008 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics defined three risk factors associated with children driving ATVs:

• Children lack the physical and developmental maturity to operate an off-road vehicle safely, especially in terms of judgment.

• Public lands are often difficult to access for rescue crews due to distance and challenging terrain.

• ATVs allow high rates of speed, weigh a great deal and completely expose the driver.

Dr. Shannon Smith, a pediatrician at University of Mississippi Medical Center, said in a Feb. 20 story in the Hattiesburg American that 205 Mississippians died in ATV accidents from 1999 through 2008 and of those, 43 percent were people younger than 22.

Operated safely, ATVs can provide endless hours of exhilarating fun. And while nothing will make ATVs completely safe, steps can and should be taken by ATV owners to limit such risk.

One week ago in the Hebron Community of Jones County, a 3-year-old was killed after the Arctic Cat Prowler in which the boy was a passenger flipped. The toddler was ejected along with the 18-year-old driver and two other child passengers. The Prowler, manufactured by Arctic Cat Inc., is a two-seat ATV with a basket in the back, and officials said some of the children were riding in the basket.

Stories like the one in Jones County will continue. With each fatal accident, the calls for more stringent regulations regarding the use of ATVs will increase.

If only adults would act like adults and think critically, we wouldn’t have to wait on government involvement.