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Shouldn’t an operators permit or driver’s license be required?

Legislators in Oregon are considering a new bill in that state’s Senate that would ban children under 12 from riding all terrain vehicles and limit 12- to 15-year-olds to riding ATVs with smaller engines, according to a news report in the International Business Times.

ATV enthusiasts are of course, against this bill saying that Oregon has enough safety regulations and that the legislation will “hurt a burgeoning industry,” the article says. But those who support the bill rightly say that these off-road vehicles are dangerous and that younger children are particularly vulnerable to serious injuries or even death while riding ATVs.

“Currently, Oregon has very lenient ATV operator rules,” said Sen. Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin, one of the bill’s sponsors, quoted in the article. “As ATV-ing becomes a more popular sport the injury and death rate continues to rise … I believe that regulations are necessary in order to protect children from unnecessary death or injury.”

I absolutely agree. ATVs have proven to be extremely dangerous when handled by young children. These vehicles are not like toy cars. They are powerful machines that can reach speeds of up to 70 mph and tip over easily. If a child is not old enough to operate a motor vehicle he or she has no business being on an ATV.

ATVs are wildly popular and the industry injects millions of dollars into Oregon local business that cater to ATV riders. According to an Oregon State University report, off-highway vehicle recreation contributed an estimated $120 million and 1,809 jobs to the state’s economy in 1999. Last year, the state parks department generated more than $800,000 by issuing ATV permits, according to this article.

I say that a proficiency test should be required for anyone without a driver’s license. The statistics on children ATV injuries are staggering. Requiring riders to prove competency seems logical, doable and inexpensive, when compared to the cost to purchase and maintain an ATV.

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