Editorial: ATV not toy for children
"James was by all accounts an exceptional child ...," starts one account on a website started by parents, atvsafetynet.org.
"Jessica was a beautiful, shining star to everyone she knew ...," says another.
They go on:
"He grew up an only child and we loved and spoiled him from the beginning ..."
"Chase was an outdoor kind of boy ..."
"Our lives as well as our families' lives have never been the same ..."
"We are telling our story for only one reason, to prevent another atv accident involving a child."
On Thanksgiving Day, young Bryce Rueger of Rowan County died when the ATV he was driving turned over on him - adding another devastated family to the list. No one doubts how much Bryce's parents loved him or were willing to sacrifice for him. But a great many people are wondering about the circumstances under which their young child was riding on a powerful, adult-sized ATV.
Bryce was only 7 - a year younger than the minimum age to operate an ATV in North Carolina. He and an 11-year-old passenger rounded the corner of a house too fast and the ATV took a fatal turn.
Unfortunately, this was no fluke. ATVs are notorious for turning over, and they are the fourth-deadliest product overseen by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Some 55 children under 16 were killed riding ATVs in 2010, and more than 28,000 were injured, according to the commission.
Pediatricians and others in the state are pushing to raise the minimum age for ATV driving to 12, a wise move. The state should also investigate how to enforce the law, since ATV riding is an off-road sport usually not visible from public roads.
For the most part, families are expected to self-enforce - to understand that the age limit has been put into law for an important reason. Hundreds of adults die each year in ATV accidents. If maneuvering these vehicles is risky for adults, the danger is multiplied many times over for a child.
Hindsight is 20-20; ask all the parents posting their sad stories on atvsafetynet.org. In addition to wishing their children had not ridden an ATV that fateful day, many also call for changes in ATV designs to improve stability.
The most effective safety measure, however, is a parent's vigilance. The Ruegers' loss holds a lesson for others. Pay tribute to their child by keeping a close eye on your own - and keeping them away from ATVs.