Got this of an ACVW's forum. Truth or fiction? ATV age limits get riders revved up By Winston Ross The Register-Guard Published: Wednesday, February 7, 2007 WINCHESTER BAY - Simi Hoover has barely had a moment to wrap her mind around proposed restrictions on the use of all-terrain vehicles by children when a better advocate for her position pulls up. It's her 12-year-old son, A.J., wearing a yellow T-shirt that reads "Do the dunes" and riding a 400cc Honda EX four-wheel ATV, or "quad." It's people such as A.J. whom state Senate Bill 49 would affect directly. The measure would restrict 12- to 15-year-olds to machines with 90cc engines - which lack the power to climb many hills in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. And, under the bill, riders younger than 12 would be banned altogether - a prospect that makes the bushy-haired boy, who has been riding ATVs for five years, shudder. "We think it's a mistake," said Simi Hoover, who owns Dune Country ATV Rental in Winchester Bay, just outside the dunes recreation area and a hot spot for off-road vehicle enthusiasts. "My son outgrew the 90ccs four years ago." advertisement A.J.'s first ATV was a 50cc toy he acquired at age 8. After Simi got tired of hearing "Push me, mom! Push me!" the boy graduated to a 90cc. The next year it was 220ccs and at age 11, A.J. jumped to 400ccs. His current machine has a top speed of 55 mph. If SB 49 had passed five years ago, "I'd probably stop riding," A.J. forces himself to say. So would countless other youngsters, his mother said, which would put a chill on a business increasingly bolstered by families who have found a high-powered activity children and parents both enjoy. That sentiment is clogging the e-mail inboxes of the bill's co-sponsors, Sens. Alan Bates, D-Ashland, and Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin. Of the hundreds of e-mails Devlin's legislative aide Anna Haley has read since the bill was introduced a few weeks ago, about 75 percent are against the idea. The Bay Area Chamber of Commerce also opposes the bill, which it says is overly restrictive and will hurt the south coast economy. Several lawmakers from the Oregon Coast have said they won't vote for SB 49 as it reads now. Haley said the sponsors probably will amend the bill to get it passed. The original bill was the brainstorm of Safe Kids of Oregon, the state chapter of the nonprofit Safe Kids National, a group that promotes child safety through regulations. Advocates for tougher legislation said ATV deaths have risen steadily as the number of riders has ballooned. They say 8-year-olds are too young to be operating such machinery. "Almost every child that has died in Oregon was wearing proper safety gear," Haley said. "They're still dying." Oregon's all-terrain vehicle law only requires children under age 18 to wear a helmet, Haley said. Fourteen states regulate children's use of all-terrain vehicles, with age restrictions from 10 to 14. It's not just injured children and their families who are affected, taxpayers also are asked to help foot the bills, said Adrienne Greene, state coordinator for Safe Kids Oregon. Adults and children injured in ATV-related accidents in Oregon racked up $50 million in medical bills between 2000 and 2005, Greene said. Government programs paid for more than $9 million of that. Greene argues that children under age 16 shouldn't ride ATVs at all, for the same reasons they can't drive cars by themselves. "Cars weigh a lot and go (page 2 of 2) really fast," Greene said. "They require a complex set of skills that come with cognitive maturity. We don't let kids in Oregon under the age of 16 drive a Jet Ski for the same reason. There's a learning period." But knowing the stiff opposition SB 49 faces, Haley said it's likely that amendments will be introduced to mirror recommendations of the ATV lobbying group, the Special Vehicle Institute of America. The institute recommends that 6- to 12-year-olds only be allowed to ride ATVs under 70ccs and that 12- to 16-year-olds ride ATVs under 90ccs. advertisement That still wouldn't sit well with the Hoovers, although they follow those guidelines for the quads they rent to tourists. A.J.'s father, Greg Hoover, said a 90cc ATV is too small for many 12-year-olds, and 12-year-olds keep getting bigger and bigger. "Their knees are up to their arms" on a small ATV, Hoover said. "That's unsafe, too." A better law would be to require all-terrain vehicle riders of all ages to take a safety course, which A.J. has done and which would prevent many injuries, Simi Hoover said. That proposal is in the works in the House, along with two others generated by the state Department of Transpor- tation that would require safety training for all Class I and Class III vehicle operators on public land in Oregon, require helmets on such vehicles for all adults, and restrict transport of more than one person to vehicles specifically designed for that. Simi Hoover said limiting vehicles' power by age will just mean kids don't get a chance to learn to use the bigger quads before they're given free rein. "I think there are a lot of crazy 20-year-olds out there," she said, "who don't get the opportunity to ride." In five years of riding, A.J. is proud to announce, "I've never been to the Reedsport hospital," although, he added, "I've sprained my wrists; lots of bruises, and I have a second-degree burn on my leg." Ask A.J. how he got the burn and he'll tell you it's from a hot day when he decided to wear shorts - a no-no on an ATV, where searing tailpipes are just a brush away from vulnerable flesh. Ask his mother, and she just shakes her head. "Stupidity," she said, with a chuckle.