A measure to reduce deaths and severe injuries among teenagers in ATV accidents sailed through the House Health and Human Services Committee, the Oklahoma House of Representatives reported.
Senate Bill 1830, by State Sen. Bernest Cain (D-Oklahoma City) and State Rep. Bill Nations, would require all ATV riders under the age of 18 to wear a helmet and prohibit riders under the age of 14 from carrying passengers unless the ATC was specifically designed to do so.
Those using the ATV for agricultural purposes would be exempt from the law.
“I am pleased that my fellow legislators looked at this matter with the seriousness it deserves,” said Nations, D-Norman. “It has been proven time and time again that helmets save lives at a staggering rate in ATV and motorcycle accidents.”
A study published in the May 2005 Journal of the Oklahoma State Medical Association looked at traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries from 1992 through 2002. In that time, close to 400 people had traumatic brain or spinal cord injuries. Some were children as young as three years old. Sixty-two people were killed.
That same study showed that the numbers of injuries during that period tripled, from an average of 23 a year before 1998, to 69 in 2001 and 2002. The study also showed that wearing helmets while riding ATVs can reduce deaths by 42 percent and reduce nonfatal head injuries by 64 percent.
State Rep. Doug Cox, an emergency room physician in Grove, treated two patients over the weekend who had been involved in an ATV accident. The 15-year-old female driver was knocked unconscious and required extensive care. The 11-year-old female passenger was also treated for serious, non-life threatening injuries.
“Those who are wearing helmets in an ATV accident are 42 percent less likely to die,” said Cox, R-Grove. “The problem is only 6 percent of ATV riders wear helmets. I can do the math and figure out that helmets save our children’s lives.”
Nations said 11 Oklahomans were killed last year in ATV accidents. None were wearing helmets.
“This bill gives parents leverage when dealing with this issue,” said Nations. “If it is the law, the parents are more likely to enforce monitor the children and make sure they are wearing helmets.”
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