Ore. Senate Committee To Allow Preteens on ATVs

April 26, 2007

All-terrain vehicle riders and those concerned about their safety have reached a compromise that would keep preteen children on the popular machines.

An Oregon Senate committee announced a plan Monday that would require riders to take a safety class. Moreover, a rider would need to be on an ATV that is safe for a person of his of her stature.

Oregon lawmakers were considering a measure that would ban children under 12 from riding ATVs. The bill had been pushed by public health officials and by parents whose children have been killed or injured in ATV accidents. ATV enthusiasts, however, said Oregon already has sufficient safety regulations and the legislation would hurt a burgeoning industry.

Under Senate Bill 101 — negotiated by a group of riders, dealers and safety advocates — minors and their parents would need to attend mandatory safety training and get certified before the youth can ride on an ATV.

“We are all in agreement that this is a bill that will advance the safety of Oregon children and also be good for ATVers,” said Sen. Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin, who originally sought the youth ridership ban.

Under the amended bill, children ages 6 and younger would not be allowed to use ATVs, but older children could if they have a supervising guardian and a state-issued permit, which would be available after the completion of the safety course.

The rules regarding properly sized ATVs would be written by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. Portland, Ore., ATV dealer Gary Sargent, who helped negotiate the bill, said it makes more sense to look at the size of a person, rather than his or her age, before deciding what ATV he or she should be riding.

Lindy Minten of Scio, a mother with two children who like to ride ATVs, told the Senate Committee on Business, Transportation and Workforce Development that the compromise strikes a fair balance.

She said it wouldn’t have been fair for the state to limit their ability to ride, but it is appropriate to require safety training.

“Parents fall back on the ‘We didn’t know it was dangerous’ excuse, but then there is nothing you can do after a child is injured or killed,” she said.

The bill appears to be the only ATV-related safety bill with a decent chance of passage this session. A proposal that would have required helmets for ATV riders has stalled, said Jim Myron, the legislative liaison for the parks agency.

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