New Massachusetts ATV Laws – A Model for Oregon?

A new measure signed into law in Massachusetts this week raises questions about whether Oregon has sufficiently strong laws regarding young riders and ATVs. As outlined by Boston TV station WCVB, the measure, known as “Sean’s Law,” raises the minimum age for ATV operation in Massachusetts from 10 to 14. The law is named after a 8 year old boy who died in an ATV accident in 2006.

New laws such as this are necessary because of the disturbing ways in which some ATV manufacturers market their products. Advertising materials show families using ATVs – in some cases portraying children who in many states would be breaking the law by being on one. Manufacturers downplay the tendency of ATVs to flip over and the serious consequences that can come from being pinned under one. ATVs are neither small nor light.

Here in Oregon there is no minimum age for operating an ATV, though operators below the age of 30 are required to complete a safety education course (by 2014 that requirement will apply to all Oregon ATV riders regardless of age). The course can be taken either in person or online, though beginning in 2012 the “hands-on” version will be required for Oregonians 15 and younger.

The data that drove passage of the Massachusetts law, however, should lead Oregon parents to ask whether these vehicles are actually safe for younger teens and pre-teens to operate under any circumstances, and whether the resulting Oregon ATV accidents – some leading to death or Oregon traumatic brain injuries – are worth the risk. With ATV use growing the number of deaths associated with the vehicles has grown as well. Federal data shows Oregon with 124 ATV-related deaths between 1982 and 2005 – an average of 5.4 deaths per year. From 2006-2008, however, the figure jumps to 40 for only that three- year period: more than 13 deaths per year – a 247% increase.

According to WCVB, the Boston doctor who treated the fatally injured boy for whom the Massachusetts law is named, and who later became one of the new law’s strongest advocates, says he was swayed by data from Nova Scotia. There, a similar law led to a 50% drop in ATV deaths among children in the first year after it was enacted.

ATVs can be fun, but they are also inherently dangerous vehicles. If you or a loved one have been the victim of an Oregon ATV accident, immediately contacting an Oregon personal injury attorney with a specialization in Oregon ATV injuries to children is a crucial first step in protecting your rights.

WCVB.com: Young victim’s family gets ATV laws changed

Oregon Parks & Recreation Department: ATV page

Consumer Product Safety Commission: ATV Statistics Page