Tragedies Raise Questions On Local ATV Rules and Regulations

Stories like the ATV death of Thomas Hicks, 14 of Tatum, and of the 4 year old boy who was killed driving an ATV earlier this month, remind East Texans how dangerous ATV's can be.  Regulations and guidelines are in place, but often it's up to the parents to enforce them.

It's a question on the minds of several parents, how old should your child be to drive an ATV? State law does not have an age requirement, but many dealerships like Tyler Honda follow the ATV Safety Institute Guidelines.

"If they have a child with them, we will ask the age of the child and let them know what sizes that child can actually ride," said Jeff Kannard, Tyler Honda Owner. "If we ask the age and the child is younger than sixteen and they are looking at a full size unit, we let them know that we can't sell them a unit." Tyler Honda owner, Jeff Kannard says their age requirements are for the children's safety. He also gives a safety DVD and booklet to every customer.

"It's basically a piece of equipment," said Kannard. "It's similar to a farm tractor, vehicles you ride on the road. They need to be aware of how to operate that properly." The law may not have an age requirement, but when it comes to riding on public land there are other regulations.   State law requires all ATV's to display an ATV and OHV decal. Drivers have to wear helmets and eye protections. Those under 14, must have adult supervision, and operators cannot drive on public roadways. Texas Parks and Wildlife says it will stop ATV users driving on public land to make sure they are meeting all the requirements, but Game Wardens say when it comes to private land there is not much they can do.

"We see a lot of ATV's of all types, even the mules got real popular on our deer leases, you know deer leases are private, and it's not something that's highly regulated," said Chris Green, Smith County Game Warden.  "There are some unknowns and private property is just that." That's where Game Wardens say supervision comes in.

"These ATV's have gotten to where they are kind of a baby sitter for some folks and that's unfortunate because they need supervision on private or public land," said Green. Advice, Game Wardens say every parent should take.

Molly Reuter, Reporting.