Governor signs ATV helmet law
A state law requiring persons under 18 to wear a crash helmet while riding an all-terrain vehicle on public lands was signed into law Tuesday and takes effect Nov. 1.
State Rep. Bill Nations, D-Norman, House author of the legislation, said the measure was two years in the making and could not have passed without bipartisan support. Co-sponsor was Sen. Andrew Rice, D-Oklahoma City.
Besides legislators from both parties, Nations credited the help of the state health department’s Dr. Michael Crutcher and Kevin Pipes, the parents of injured children and the emergency trauma staff at the OU Health Sciences Center.
The law, signed by Gov. Brad Henry Tuesday, requires riders and passengers under age 18 to wear helmets while riding on public lands. In addition, the law prevents passengers from riding on ATVs unless that vehicle was designed to carry passengers.
The bill allows peace officers, including park rangers, to enforce the bill’s provisions. There are also penalties for adults who allow an underage rider to ignore the law.
Oklahoma now becomes one of 35 states that have enacted some safety requirements for children and teenagers driving and riding ATVs.
“As a result of the combined efforts of many professionals and involved families, lives will be saved and expensive disabling traumatic head injuries to children will be reduced,” Nations said. “This is a reasonable way to begin reversing the increases in ATV injuries and deaths in Oklahoma’s children. Although the legal aspects of this statute are aimed at preventing injuries on public lands, it is our hope that parents will take this as an encouragement to all parents to voluntarily ensure proper training and helmet use no matter the location.”
Nations said helmets reduce deaths by 42 percent and nonfatal head injuries by 64 percent. So far in 2007, seven Oklahomans have died while riding an ATV. That total includes three children. In 2006, 19 Oklahomans including three children died in ATV crashes.
“The State of Oklahoma was made a safer place for children because of the passage of this new law. By preventing devastating traumatic injuries, we will be able to save people from a lifetime of physical, emotional and financial suffering,” said Crutcher, secretary of health and the state’s commissioner of health.