Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

February 3, 2014

A minor change

Helmet laws for ATVs are extremely difficult to enforce


The Independent

FRANKFORT — In an ideal world, all people would wear helmets when riding all-terrain vehicles simply in the interest of safety, but effectively enforcing a law that would require all ATV riders to wear helmets would be mission impossible. That’s why we have no strong objections to Senate Bill 64 that would slightly expand the instances when people can operate ATVs without helmets.

Current law allows ATV operators 16 or older to ride without helmets when on private property or for farming, mining, logging or other business activities. Those under 16 must wear helmets whenever they are on an ATV.

Under SB 64, the helmet requirement would not apply when ATV riders cross roads with speed limits of 55 mph or less. Sen. Sara Beth Gregory said Wednesday the issue was brought to her attention by trail riders who were cited for crossing roads without helmets.

SB 64 has cleared the Senate Transportation Committee.

Kentucky Office of Highway Safety Director Bill Bell said he opposed SB 64 for safety reasons. He said Kentucky had 12 ATV-related fatalities last year on roadways.

There is no question that ATVs can be dangerous and that helmets make them safer. But how can you enforce a helmet law when many, if not most, ATV riders are on private property miles from the nearest state highway? Simply put, you can’t.

One would hope that many ATV operators and their passengers put safety first, but we know that some don’t. However, we can’t see how enacting an unenforceable law regarding ATVs is going to do much to improve safety.  If all ATV riders are doing is traveling 20 or 40 feet across a highway without a helmet, they are doing little to increase the danger.

A far more dangerous practice is adults who allow small children to operate ATVs that they have neither the strength. maturity or experience to do safely. But that’s already against the law. It’s just difficult to enforce.

Current law allows ATV operators 16 or older to ride without helmets when on private property or for farming, mining, logging or other business activities. Those under 16 must wear helmets whenever they are on an ATV.

Under SB 64, the helmet requirement would not apply when ATV riders cross roads with speed limits of 55 mph or less. Sen. Sara Beth Gregory said Wednesday the issue was brought to her attention by trail riders who were cited for crossing roads without helmets.

SB 64 has cleared the Senate Transportation Committee.

Kentucky Office of Highway Safety Director Bill Bell said he opposed SB 64 for safety reasons. He said Kentucky had 12 ATV-related fatalities last year on roadways.

There is no question that ATVs can be dangerous and that helmets make them safer. But how can you enforce a helmet law when many, if not most, ATV riders are on private property miles from the nearest state highway? Simply put, you can’t.

One would hope that many ATV operators and their passengers put safety first, but we know that some don’t. However, we can’t see how enacting an unenforceable law regarding ATVs is going to do much to improve safety.  If all ATV riders are doing is traveling 20 or 40 feet across a highway without a helmet, they are doing little to increase the danger.

A far more dangerous practice is adults who allow small children to operate ATVs that they have neither the strength. maturity or experience to do safely. But that’s already against the law. It’s just difficult to enforce.