N.C. legislator calling for tighter youth ATV restrictions

Publish Date: 
Nov 28, 2012

SALISBURY, N.C. – A North Carolina legislator is calling for tighter rules on youths riding ATVs in the wake of a Thanksgiving accident that killed a 7-year-old boy.

“I know the parents are upset, but these are unnecessary deaths that could be prevented,” Sen. Bill Purcell, D-Laurinburg, told the Charlotte Observer.

Purcell, a pediatrician for 36 years, said he agrees with the American Association of Pediatrics, which recommends children under age 16 not be allowed to operate an ATV. He helped pass legislation in 2005 that made operating ATVs illegal for children younger than 8 and also set engine-size limits for children younger than 16.

“We think the age ought to be higher, but the ATV people fought it,” Purcell said. “I think we had something about age 5 and moved it to age 8.”

The child was driving an Arctic Cat 550 ATV with an 11-year-old friend when the accident happened. The vehicle overturned while the youngsters were making a left turn around a house. Deputies said the ATV had been traveling at a high rate of speed. Medics said the younger boy died at the scene, and the older boy was airlifted to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center with serious injuries.

In North Carolina, from 1982 to 2006, 302 people were killed in ATV accidents, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s ATV safety website. Ninety-seven of them were younger than 16. From 2007 to 2010, an additional 91 people died. CPSC is taking comments on youth ATV safety on the heels of a seminar held in September.

The N.C. General Assembly loosened ATV safety laws last year when lawmakers approved a bill that exempted adults from having to wear helmets or eye protection requirements if they were riding on private property.

Purcell opposed the bill, saying the accidents show people aren’t taking the safety precautions seriously enough. “I don’t understand why people think, ‘It’s not going to happen to my kid,’ ” he said.

Posted by Holly Wagner