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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Rob Thompson
Policy Director, NC Child

Senate Passes Bill Allowing 6-Year-Old Children to Drive ATVs

RALEIGH—Under a bill passed by the Senate last week, first-graders would be able to drive a “four-wheeler,” or all-terrain vehicle (ATV), in a rollback of highly successful safety measures that have cut child deaths related to ATVs by 59% since 2005.

Regulations making the minimum age for ATV operation 8 years old, along with other safety standards, were adopted by the legislature in 2005 after an 18-month study and an open debate throughout the legislative session. In the years after passage, child deaths related to ATVs dropped by 59%, even though ridership increased. (Click here for a link to the DHHS study documenting ATV deaths from 2001-2011.)Last week the Senate voted to lower the minimum age for driving from eight years old to six years old and weaken other safety regulations for ATV drivers under age 16. The provision is buried in a lengthy bill on regulatory reform and was not discussed during the committee process or during the floor debate.

One of the key protections implemented in 2005 was a prohibition against children under age 8 from operating ATVs. This was a compromise with the ATV industry, since the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children younger than 16 should not operate an ATV.

The bill in question, House Bill 765—the Regulatory Reform Act of 2015 (see page 15, Section 3.13), previously passed the House, but without the provision on ATVs. If the House votes to concur with the Senate version of the bill, then it will be sent to the Governor’s desk for signature. If the House does not concur, the ATV provision could be removed during negotiations on a compromise version of the bill.

“There’s no reason to weaken safety regulations that have saved children’s lives, especially without an open debate about the merits of such a proposal.” said Rob Thompson, policy director at NC Child, a statewide child advocacy organization.

“To prevent unnecessary child injuries and fatalities, we call on the House to reject the current version of House Bill 765 and to remove the provisions that rollback child safety standards for ATVs,” said Thompson.

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