By Shelia Byrd/The Associated Press
JACKSON — Mickey Hale, the manager of a store that sells all-terrain vehicles, says manufacturers encourage consumers to get training before taking ATVs for a spin.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with safety. Getting consumers to do it is another story,” said Hale, who works at Auto Mart in New Albany.
A bill facing a key Senate vote as early as next week would require ATV safety courses for riders under age 16, as well as mandate they wear helmets if they’re on public property.
The proposal has passed the House. Supporters of the bill say they’re hopeful Mississippi will soon join other states that have an ATV helmet law.
“I think it’s a bill that will save some lives and prevent long-term injuries to children in Mississippi,” said House Transportation Chairman Warner McBride, D-Courtland.
Under the House version, any organization approved by the state Department of Public Safety could hold ATV safety courses. Those who complete the course would receive a certificate.
The initial Senate plan said the safety courses would be held by the Cooperative Extension Service.
Senate Judiciary B Committee Chairman Gray Tollison, D-Oxford, said he didn’t see major problems with the House version. Tollison filed the bill.
It’s unclear exactly when it will come up for a vote. If the Senate approves the House version without changes, the bill could go to the governor.
Lynn Evans, a lobbyist for the state chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said in 2009 there were 29 ATV-related deaths in Mississippi. Of those, 10 were children, she said. She said the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children spent $1.3 million in 2009 to treat injuries caused by ATVs.
“Doctors at Batson Hospital doing intensive care would see them brought in and the damages were so severe and the crashes so bad that the doctors said, ‘We’ve got to do something about this.'”
Evans said 29 other states have helmet laws.
She said she has been trying to get a similar bill passed for years, but there’s been resistance because lawmakers “didn’t want to tell people what to do on their own property.” The bill only applies to public property.
She said the doctors are pleased with the bill’s current form.
Dr. Rick Boyte, a critical care pediatrician at Batson, said the state “has no real laws that would ensure safety for children on ATVs.”
“I don’t think what’s been through the committee is going to be adequate, but it’s a good first step,” Boyte said.
The bill is Senate Bill 2196.