We have for some time advocated more stringent regulation of all-terrain vehicles in West Virginia. We have on several occasions chastized the Legislature for inaction. And while we still plead for lawmakers to do something, we also realize there is only so much government can do.
According to statistics released by the Center for Rural Emergency Medicine in Morgantown, 18 people have died as a result of ATV accidents in 2003.
In 2002, West Virginia recorded 27 ATV deaths.
"That was the highest in the nation last year," said spokesman Andrew Fulton. "We are on track to meet or perhaps beat that record. And we sincerely hope that that doesn't happen."
The center reports that only two of the 18 who have died this year were wearing helmets. Five of the dead were children.
The Legislature can crank out a million laws regulating ATVs, but if people don't start exercising some common sense, the death rate will likely remain unacceptably high.
Children should not operate ATVs without helmets. They also should not operate ATVs that are too big for them to handle. Children should not take on other children as passengers.
Adults would be well advised to follow some common sense rules. Wear helmets. Don't drive at unsafe speeds. Stay off paved roads.
While the ATV industry has advocated training for anyone who operates four-wheelers, the manufacturers could do more. For one thing, they could tone down their television commercials. Too many times we see ATVs zipping across the screen at high speeds.
All-terrain vehicles are not race cars. They should be driven with care and the TV commercials should reflect that.
We hope that when the Legislature convenes in January, it finally passes ATV regulations. In the meantime, we hope ATV owners use some good, common sense.