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Statewide law needed for ATVs

December 12, 2006

If, to use a silly example, drinking lemonade were killing more than 50 people a year in West Virginia, state lawmakers would rush to regulate that tart beverage.

After 40 people died in ATV crashes in 2005, they agreed to look at it. Now with a 2006 death toll of 52, proposals for regulations are being developed.

It's about time. But to be fair to lawmakers, they tried to fix the problem several years ago. A bill passed in 2003 mandated safety classes for children and said that riders under 18 must wear helments.

But in July, Karen Coria, a lobbyists for the ATV manufacturers, proposed tightening the rules even further.

Coria proposed that ATVs be barred from paved roads - they're currently allowed, if the road has no center line - and looking at the possibility of barring passengers as well as requiring all riders to wear helmets.

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Part of this problem is one of parental supervision. Only two of the seven children killed as of July were wearing the required helmets.

The debate now is whether the state should write its own law or empower local counties to do it. We favor a uniform state law that would keep ATVs off all paved roads in the state, center line or not.

Once the law is in force, then the lawmakers can look at adding real safety devices to these vehicles.

Children ought not to die or be maimed because their parents don't supervise them properly. And fire-rescue workers should be spared from responding to accidents that a bit more care would have prevented from taking place.

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