Ohio needs to do more to protect kids on ATVs

Five Ohio children died in ATV crashes last year. The five youth fatalities may reflect an increase in the threat ATVs pose to children; only four deaths were recorded during the previous four years combined.

State Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, wants to do something to safeguard children. He has proposed a bill providing new safety measures for ATV users 16 years of age and younger.

Ohio already has a package of limits on ATV use, but they apply primarily to riders on public property. For example, the mandate that ATV riders of all ages must wear helmets and eye protection is in force only in state forests.

Rules for ATV users under 16 are riddled with holes. For example, children as young as 12 can be allowed to ride ATVs on state Department of Natural Resources land if they are accompanied by parents. There are virtually no limits on ATV use by children 16 and older, as long as they are on private land or accompanied by someone at least 18 years of age.

Fatality statistics tell just part of the story regarding ATV hazards. Each year, thousands of Ohioans are hurt badly enough in ATV crashes to require hospital treatment. A substantial percentage – no one seems to have compiled numbers – are children.

Cera’s bill is a relatively modest proposal, perhaps in view of the backlash legislators often experience when they propose any limits on ATVs. He wants to require that children under 16 operating ATVs on public land must have completed certified training programs.

That seems little enough to ask.

“This legislation may help save lives,” Cera told members of a state House of Representatives committee. He’s right – and because the lives in question are those of precious Ohio children, lawmakers should not hesitate to approve the bill.