Last Modified: Saturday, October 19, 2013 7:48 PM
In the Oct. 13 paper, on page A3, there was a little article about a 13-year-old ATV driver dying. In that article it states that “state law requires an ATV rider to wear a helmet.” I was unaware of this law. What does the law state? Is there an age limit? Is it on private or public land?
Contrary to what the story said, no state law requires ATV riders to wear helmets.
The story, distributed by The Associated Press, originated with a state police news release. The notice, issued by Trooper Stephen Hammons of Troop I, says the teenager wasn’t wearing a helmet. But it says nothing about a helmet requirement.
“Troopers remind ATV operators about the importance of wearing a helmet when riding an ATV,” reads the news release.
“Appropriate helmets can help to reduce injuries sustained to riders in the event of a crash. Information about Louisiana State Law regarding ATV operation on public roadways can be found at http://legis.la.gov/lss/lss.asp?doc=88237.”
The Web address leads users to a page on the Legislature’s website that features the text of R.S. 32:299, which sets parameters for the farm-related use of all-terrain vehicles on the shoulders of public roads — except interstates — and allows for the “incidental crossing of public roads or highways.”
It doesn’t explicitly mention helmets, but a provision toward the bottom of the statute makes a reference to R.S. 32:190, the law mandating helmets for motorcyclists: “The provisions of R.S. 32:190 shall not apply to this Section.”
The statute immediately following the ATV law requires all coroners to report the year’s tally of ATV-related deaths of children younger than 16 to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission by April 1 each year.
According to the latest CPSC report on ATV deaths nationwide, 262 people died in ATV accidents in Louisiana from 1982 through 2011. Nationwide the number stood at 11,688 on Dec. 31, 2011 — 2,865, or 25 percent, of them children younger than 16.
“Of the 2,865 ATV-related fatalities of children younger than 16 years of age, 1,226 (43 percent) were younger than 12 years of age,” reads the report.
“In 2007, the most recent year where reporting is considered complete, 135 (16 percent) of the reported 822 ATV-related fatalities were children younger than 16 years of age.”
State lawmakers have tried unsuccessfully in recent years to mandate the use of safety gear for certain ATV operators and to limit the age of those who ride them.
Rep. Clara Baudoin, D-Carencro, in 2007 sponsored a bill that called for the use of helmets and protective eyewear for children younger than 16; mandated driver safety education; required adult supervision for riders under 16; and barred children younger than 6 from operating ATVs. It failed to pass the House.
Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, introduced a bill in 2010 to require safety training for ATV operators and to mandate helmet use for children younger than 12. Her measure died in committee.
The Informer answers questions from readers each Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. It is researched and written by Andrew Perzo, an American Press staff writer. To ask a question, call 494-4098, press 5 and leave voice mail, or email email@example.com