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CON: Enforcement infringes on property rights; parents need to do policing

By Sonny Long
Dec. 2, 2012 at 6:02 a.m.
Updated Dec. 3, 2012 at 6:03 a.m.


Although Texas law includes age restrictions and safety requirements for all-terrain vehicles on public lands, law enforcement officials' hands are tied when it comes to what happens on private property.

"It would be near impossible to enforce the ATV laws on private lands and would probably infringe on numerous constitutional rights and safeguards," said Cuero Police Chief Jay Lewis.

Lewis encourages adults to step up and take responsibility for their children.

"The best recourse seems to be intensive instruction by parents and guardians and making sure the ATVs are operated safely by the younger folks," Lewis said. "There is nothing better than common sense."

Lavaca County Sheriff Micah Harmon agreed with Lewis.

"I feel it is the duty of a parent or other responsible adults to determine if a child is able to operate an ATV in a safe manner," Harmon said.

Training, too, is a key to safely operating an ATV no matter the age, said the sheriff.

"I don't think it is the age of the child as much as it is the amount of training and experience the child has in operating the ATV," Harmon said.

"In rural areas, such as Lavaca County," he said, "children are able to operate farm equipment and other machinery at a very young age because the parents begin teaching them at a very young age.

"It all boils down to training, experience and supervision."

Carol Smith, ATV safety coordinator for the Texas 4-H Foundation, wrote the Consumer Product Safety Commission when it was taking public comments on the topic before an October conference on ATV safety.

"Our biggest issues are children who ride without a helmet, ride with more than one person on the ATV and ride an ATV that is too large for their age/size," she wrote.

The use of ATVs is a way to get today's children outside into the fresh air and sunshine and to get physical exercise, she said.

"It needs to be done safely and with the proper training and supervision, just like most sports," Smith said.

Related stories:

PRO: Rules should extend to private property, click HERE

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