Lawmakers to regulate ATV industry


A watered-down bill to regulate the all-terrain vehicle industry in Oregon drew stiff opposition from House Republicans Friday but still passed.

At least four regulatory proposals were batted around in the Legislature this session, but most were derailed by an ATV user group that opposed many of the safety precautions that advocates said would reduce deaths and injury.

That wasn't the case with the bill the House approved Friday 31-28.

"There was absolutely no opposition in committee on this bill from the users," said Rep. Terry Beyer, D-Springfield. "The manufacturers and distributors of all-terrain vehicles all support this bill."

The drive to increase ATV safety measures in Oregon stemmed in part from the 2002 death of Kyle Rabe, a 10-year-old Central Oregon boy killed when his adult-size ATV flipped and rolled on top of him.

Earlier in the session, Rabe's mother pushed for a bill to prohibit children younger than 12 from riding adult-size all-terrain vehicles, which can weigh up to 600 pounds.

The bill passed Friday focuses on rider training and increased parental supervision but includes few of the safety precautions advocates had pressed for.

The measure includes a phased-in permit process requiring adult ATV riders to pass a training course and obtain a permit before riding on public land unless they have at least five years riding experience and pass an equivalency exam.

The permit would not be required until 2014.

Public safety advocates questioned whether the training requirements passed by the House Friday would curb the injuries and deaths caused by the vehicles.

"Is training a 6-year-old to ride an ATV going to stop them from dying when the vehicle rolls over on them?" said Adrienne Greene, coordinator of the advocacy group Safe Kids Oregon.

According to the group, eight children in Oregon died from ATV use in 2005, and medical bills for people injured in ATV-related accidents reached $50 million between 2000 and 2005.

The proposal also has some provisions for younger riders.

Under the bill, ATV users younger than 16 are required to undergo a training requirement and obtain a permit beginning in 2009. The measure also requires ATV users younger than 18 to fasten the chin straps of the helmets they are required to wear.

Current Oregon law does not require adults to wear helmets while operating ATVs.

The vote Friday was mostly along party lines. Republicans said the new regulations weren't necessary.

"This is just another attempt to take away the rights" of ATV users, said Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner, who voted against the bill.

But others said it was a critical first step in regulating a $5-billion industry that has resulted in 109 deaths in Oregon over the past 20 years.

The bill now moves to the Senate for action on amendments.

The bill is SB101.

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