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Friday, August 19, 2005

New ATV Regulations Approved To Keep Kids Safe

The General Assembly has given its final approval to new minimum age requirements for operating all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), which would keep children under 8 from driving the popular four-wheelers. The House approved the compromise measure late last week and the Senate voted 32-15 in favor of the bill that would remove North Carolina from a handful of states with virtually no operating restrictions for ATVs. The bill, SB 189, now goes to Gov. Mike Easley to be signed into law. The new rules would bar children under 8 from operating an ATV, while children ages 8 to 15 would be limited to driving models with engines of less than 90 cubic centimeters. Most ATV drivers also would have to complete a safety course and follow equipment and driving standards. There would be some exceptions for certain individuals, including hunters and farmers. Children born on or before Aug. 15, 1997, would still be able to operate larger vehicles if a parent can prove they or a guardian owned the ATV before Aug. 15 of this year. The provision is meant to guarantee that families who already have purchased ATVs are not penalized.

North Carolina ranked 10th nationally with 189 ATV-related deaths from 1982-2002, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The number of children under 16 who died in ATV-related accidents in our state doubled from five in 1999 to 11 last year. Supporters of the bill cite statistics showing that of 157 ATV deaths in the state between 1999 and 2004, 43 involved children under 16 and 22 involved children under 12. There have been several accidents across the state this year where children were killed or seriously injured.


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