Riding across an open field in an all-terrain vehicle can be a great way to unwind on the weekend. But it’s also an activity that can cause serious injuries for children. On June 11, 2015, an ATV accident in a Chambers County pasture killed two children. The four-seat ATV was carrying six people – all between the ages of 5 and 16 – when it rolled over. The 5-year-old boy died at the scene, and his 7-year-old sister died the next day. A week later, in Brazoria County, a 12-year-old boy died when he lost control of the ATV he was driving and crashed into a tree.
Tragedies like these are becoming too common. And not just in Texas. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that in 2013, 99,600 people nationwide were treated in emergency rooms because of ATV-related injuries, and 25 percent of them were children younger than age 16.
Texas ATV Law Requirements
In Texas, a teen who wants to drive a car is subject to graduated driver’s license (GDL) requirements, and GDL is widely considered to be the gold standard for safe teen driving. Teens can’t even get a full-fledged license before age 18. Yet Texas law allows children to drive ATVs, and those vehicles can travel as fast as a car.
Specifically, Texas law requires all operators of ATVs under the age of 14 to be “directly supervised” by a parent or guardian or to be supervised by a person over the age of 18, as authorized by a parent or guardian. But it’s clear that’s not happening consistently – and even if parents ensure their kids are lawfully operating ATVs, the law itself may not take into account the true hazards posed by these vehicles.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says children under age 16 should not be drivers or passengers on an ATV, and the CPSC says children under age 16 should not drive adult ATVs. Children may not have the strength or body mass to correct an ATV’s course or trajectory by shifting their weight. And without any formal driver’s education training, young drivers may not understand how to adjust their speed to account for terrain, incline, and obstacles.
The CPSC recommends all drivers, regardless of age, take a safety training course, and wear protective gear, including a helmet, eye protection, clothing that covers the skin, and long boots and gloves. And ATVs should never carry more passengers than they’re designed to carry.
Parents can set good examples for children by wearing safety gear when they operate an ATV. In some parts of Texas, especially on farms or ranches, operating an ATV is part of daily life. When that’s the case, parents should go the extra mile to teach kids about safety.
Sometimes, an ATV accident happens when a driver is reckless or negligent and causes injury to a person riding on another ATV, or to their passenger. If you believe someone caused an accident that led to serious injury for you, call us. You might have a case. You can talk to our personal injury lawyers at (855) 414-1012.