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Area retailers support tougher ATV legislation

Area recreational vehicle retailers say they support bills underconsideration by the Legislature that would limit who could rideall-terrain vehicles and require riders younger than 16 to wearhelmets.

More than 2,000 bills have been introduced in the 2005legislative session. House and Senate panels have until Feb. 1 toact on the measures originating in their respective chamber.

Among those bills is one that would stipulate that only licenseddrivers or those who have completed a specified training coursecould drive an ATV. The same bill would also require riders under16 to wear helmets.

“I think either one of those is a good idea,” said Chuck Owens,sales manager at Brookhaven Honda.

Bubba Bardwell of Bardwell Yamaha agreed.

“I think they’re both good laws,” he said.

Area retailers say they already stress safety in each sale andare in favor of laws designed to promote or make ATV ridingsafer.

Under current laws, ATV sales are limited to licenseddrivers.

Because of that, a new law allowing only licensed drivers toride them will have little impact on those sales, Owens said.

“The majority of our sales are to people over 18, and we can’tsell them to people under 16, so the impact of this law on saleswill be slim to none,” he said.

Owens said he believes the intent of the law may be to boost thenumber of young people who take the training courses.

“I don’t really see where they’re going with that unless it’s topromote the training courses,” he said. “If (a rider) is too youngto be licensed, then the training course would be their onlyoption.”

The training courses, which are open to adults and youths, aredesigned to familiarize inexperienced riders with the basicmechanics of driving ATVs and to promote safety, Owens said.

Bardwell said he feels the bill was crafted to promote safetyamong youth by forcing them to attend training courses. He addedthat he wasn’t sure it would help in that regard.

“No, I don’t (think it will help),” he said. “Wearing helmetswould make it safer, but I don’t think the courses will help. I’vehad the training course, and it’s not what everyone has in mind. Ithink requiring 16-year-olds and under to wear helmets will do morethan anything.”

He said that when combined, however, the laws should make ATVriding safer for the youths.

“Parental guidance is a lot of it,” Bardwell said. “Childrenunder 16 should be with an adult at all times when riding. Thatshould be priority one.”

The bill, if passed, probably won’t affect the sales of machinesdesigned for young riders ages 12 to 16, Owens said.

“They still have to purchased by a legal adult and, hopefully,that adult supervises the child when they are riding,” he said.

The youth models are manufactured with many safety features thatcan be regulated by adults, he said, citing throttle safeties thatcan set a maximum speed.

“There’s a lot of safety features on those. They’re at theparent’s discretion,” Owens said.

Helmet usage, especially among children, is already encouraged,Owens said. A buyer of a youth machine sold at Brookhaven Hondareceives a free helmet with the purchase.

“I’m not going to say everyone puts one on, but they have thatoption,” he said.