Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tougher ATV Rules Simmering; Lawmakers Want to Overhaul Measure to Curtail Children's Deaths

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tougher ATV Rules Simmering; Lawmakers Want to Overhaul Measure to Curtail Children's Deaths

Article excerpt

Byline: BRIAN BASINGER, The Times-Union

ATLANTA -- Lawmakers are shifting into high gear to prevent the deaths of children who joy ride on all-terrain vehicles.

Rep. Chuck Sims, D-Douglas, said a group of legislators is working to overhaul an existing bill to ensure tougher restrictions are passed this session.

The bill will likely require all ATV riders under 16 to stay off grass medians and road shoulders, Sims said. The proposal would also make helmets compulsory for all minors riding the four-wheelers.

ATVs are now banned from public roads and highways, but teenage drivers often get around the law by riding on the sides of the road, or in drainage ditches and river beds.

"My intention is to curb the use of these things," Sims said. "Children are getting killed."

Five children in Coffee County died in September after the ATV on which they were riding collided with a car on a rural road. None of the children, ages 10 to 14, was wearing a helmet.

Sims had introduced legislation addressing the issue of ATV safety earlier this session, but the bill was pulled for retooling amid concerns it was too controversial to pass.

Originally, Sims wanted make ATVs carry license plates, putting the vehicles in the same category of state law as motorcycles. That move would have required all drivers to be licensed by the state, while preventing those under 16 from driving ATVs altogether, Sims said.

However, several House Democrats objected, saying the plan would open the door to ATV use on roads in national and state forests, potentially damaging the environment.

So Sims, along with several other lawmakers, are now giving the bill a makeover so it will focus more exclusively on preventing injuries and deaths of child riders.

"Right now we're trying to work out everything," said Sims, explaining he wants to be sure hunters and farmers would still be able to use ATVs for work and recreation. …

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