4-wheeler no place for goofy teen joy

Published 11:59 pm Saturday, September 18, 2010

I wonder, watching you drive past me on that 4-wheeler, if there is a functioning brain cell in your head.

You appear to be 16, maybe 17, one hand on the throttle, the other extended in the air pointing onward. It looks as though you can drive the 4-wheeler without much problem, and your lack of a helmet shows me that you think you are good enough to drive one-handed.

But why on Earth are you driving with an infant sitting in front of you, arms not long enough to hold onto anything, legs barely long enough to straddle the machine on which you sit as you fly past me on a public, winding country road.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Being as you seem old enough to handle the ride by yourself, I dare not even ask where your helmet is. Want to ride without a helmet? Fine by me. Get splattered all over the asphalt? Sure, as long as you pay your own medical costs.

You can make those decisions, dumb as they are, because with age is supposed to come responsibility.

The youngster you have on board, though, cannot make that decision. His life is still eating, sleeping and losing what he ate. Maybe he can smile, or mumble a bit, but mostly he is slowly developing into what one day could be a productive human being — if he gets that far.

I sit transfixed in the driver’s seat as you wheel around the first half of a sharp S-curve. Your smiling face again appears as you head back in my direction. Again, one hand is on the throttle and the other, somewhere other than holding that toddler in place. At least give the kid a bit of support sitting there, will you please? I imagine if that 4-wheeler did get into some trouble, you would jump and leave junior to fend for himself.

Nearly 1,000 people have died in ATV accidents and more than 150,000 have been seriously injured due to ATV wrecks since 2005, statistics from the Consumer Products Safety Commission showed. You might be aware that a 4-wheeler is a dangerous motor vehicle not suited for toddlers no matter what equipment one has on.

As I turn in the other direction, I hope you made the curve at the other end of the road. I hear no sirens, so I guess you made it — this time.

One day, though, your lack of brain function might end up costing your health, or your life. You make the decisions, though, and you will live — or die — with them.

Your passenger does not. He leaves his destiny to you — a brain-dead teenager with a goofy grin and an extended arm.