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ATV safety legislation needs to be addressed in Legislature

It's time that West Virginia stops setting an example.

When it comes to all-terrain vehicle accidents and fatalities, few states do it better -- so to speak -- than the Mountain State. It remains one of the last places in the country where any person of any age can ride an ATV just about anywhere he or she wants.

And those individuals can do so, according to Dr. Henry Taylor, commissioner of the state Bureau for Public Health, "with complete disregard to their own safety or the safety of those around them."

A recent study conducted by the Bureau found that ATV accidents cost West Virginians $10-$31 million per year in medical costs.

Dr. Jim Helmkamp, an epidemiologist at the Center for Rural Emergency Medicine at West Virginia University, found that 55 percent of ATV injuries involve the head, neck and spine --injuries that typically cost anywhere from $1.3 to $21 million.

In addition, Helmkamp estimated the average years of productive life lost from ATV deaths: 41 for men and 55 for women. The estimations took into account lost wages, taxes and other economic effects of an early death. About a dozen people die annually in the state from ATV accidents.

Delegate Virginia Mahan, D-Summers, and Sen. Mike Oliverio, D-Monongalia, have both introduced bills that would establish safety regulations for ATVs. We hope they succeed.

We don't need to state the obvious: The true tragedy here is not the negative economic impact, but the human factor. As Helmkamp noted, the statistics "don't begin to communicate the enormous amount of pain and suffering resulting from the head, neck and spinal injuries that typically result from ATV crashes."

Something needs to be done.

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