Mississippi Considers ATV Safety Bill for Youth

March 4, 2011

The Mississippi House will soon consider a bill requiring all-terrain vehicle riders under 16 to wear a helmet and take a safety course if they are going to ride on public lands.

The House Transportation Committee approved the Senate bill this week, along with an amendment to extend the requirements to passengers. The House must act on the bill by March 9.

Rep. Mary Coleman, D-Jackson, said that excluding private lands from the bill and allowing a variety of state-certified teachers to administer the safety course was a result of compromise. But she refused to support an amendment by Republican Rep. Toby Barker of Hattiesburg to allow ATV users to fulfill the education requirement by watching a video at the dealership.

“It’s about safety and about our children,” said Coleman.

She said children need hands-on experience to learn how to ride ATVs safely.

Barker argued that without the amendment, the bill would stand little chance of passing.

“You need to make these things as accessible as possible or this bill’s not going to make it,” he said. The video amendment failed to pass.

Lynn Evans, a lobbyist for pediatricians, said in the committee hearing that Mississippi’s death rate for ATV riders under 16, and the costs of treating survivors, are significant in Mississippi. She added both are preventable with safety measures such as a helmet rule, which many other states already have.

According to the Center for Mississippi Health Policy, the ATV average death rate for youth under age 16 in Mississippi is 85.55 per million, but the rate nationally is 21.05 per million.

House Chair Warner McBride, D-Courtland, said the bill could serve as a foundation for a broader law in subsequent years.

“Let’s pass a bill on a basic level and see how that works,” he said.

The ATV Safety Institute supports the bill but is asking lawmakers to specify that the group’s ATV RiderCourse be specified in the bill as satisfying the training requirement, in addition to the Mississippi 4-H course already specified, said Paul Vitrano, the institute’s executive vice president.

The bill is Senate Bill 2196.

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