Saturday, November 8, 2003

Lawmakers seek stricter ATV laws

Number of fatalities rising in Kentucky

The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - With the number of deaths from all-terrain vehicles rising, some are calling for stricter laws controlling their use.

The number of fatal accidents involving ATVs jumped from 17 in 1998 to 40 last year, according to records at the Kentucky Cabinet for Health Services. Since mid-August of this year, there have been at least 11 fatalities.

State police started tracking ATV accidents in 2000. Since then, they have investigated at least 619 accidents that resulted in 611 injuries and 53 deaths. All but about 50 of the accidents happened on public roads.

Critics of ATV safety, including Rep. Kathy Stein, D-Lexington, say deaths have increased since passage of a 1998 law that allows licensed drivers to travel on public roads for up to two-tenths of a mile.

A September accident that killed David Radford and his 7-year-old daughter, Aislanique, in Cerulean occurred when the two headed down a local highway and their ATV veered out of control.

"It seems like ... every other day you're reading about somebody killed or seriously injured in an ATV accident," Stein said. Former Rep. Johnnie Turner, R-Harlan, who pushed the bill through the legislature, said it is being unfairly blamed for the rise in accidents. Turner said he senses little support for an outright ban of ATVs on highways.

"It's not fair to punish thousands of law-abiding people in rural America," he said.

The law was mainly intended for ATV riders on farms and in construction who need to cross a highway.

Stein, who supported a failed measure this year to ban ATVs from highways and to require helmets, said the law is being abused. She plans to try another bill next year that would ban ATVs from highways, require helmets and prohibit passengers.

Approved headgear is already required when ATVs are driven on public roads, but not on private land or when the operator is engaged in a commercial or business activity.

ATVs have become more popular around Kentucky. Sales of new vehicles have increased from about 17,000 in 1998 to 22,000 in 2002, according to the Specialty Vehicle Manufacturers Institute.

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