Considering the number of all-terrain and other recreational vehicles being ridden in Alaska, it isn’t surprising that they are involved in a large number of accidents in the state. But one alarming fact about those accidents is that many of them involve young children who are either illegally driving the vehicles or are innocent bystanders endangered by those illegal drivers.
A recent case-in-point has led two mothers whose children narrowly escaped serious injury in an ATV accident to petition city officials for help in enforcing the laws. The accident occurred when a teenaged girl was driving an ATV down the road near one woman’s home where her children were playing outside. The ATV, which was traveling 20-25 mph, struck the woman’s son so hard that his shoes flew off. What could have been a tragedy only resulted in cuts, bruises, swelling and a burn on his head, but that mother has seen enough.
The mother of the injured boy and the mother of the young girl who was driving the ATV have teamed up to form Back to Bikes Alaska, a road safety awareness program which emphasizes that children who are too young to be legally driving recreational vehicles should be riding their bikes instead. The campaign is designed to bring attention to the dangers, while also asking parents to police their children and asking police to enforce the laws.
According to statistics from 2014 supplied by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium’s Alaska Native Injury Atlas, data was collected from the periods 1992-1995 and 2008-2011. The second period had a 13.8 percent increase in the number of native Alaskans who were hospitalized due to ATV accidents. Almost 35 percent of those were children between the ages of 10 and 19. Over the ten year period from 2002-2011, off-road vehicle injuries were then fifth leading cause of injury resulting in death for children in that same age group.
State law requires anyone operating vehicles such as ATVs, snowmobiles and mopeds to be at least 14 and have at least an instruction permit. But even then a licensed driver who is at least 21 years of age with at least one year of driving experience must also be on or in the vehicle.
Fortunately, neither of the children involved in the accident that started the campaign were seriously injured. But many children as well as adults are not so lucky. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a recreational vehicle, a personal injury attorney in Fairbanks may be helpful in determining whether you may be entitled in compensation.
Merdes Law Office has helped injured Alaskans for more than 25 years, it’s who we are. And while we hope you never need us… we’re here if you do.
Source: The Arctic Sounder, “Kotzebue mom wants stricter penalties for young ATV drivers after accident,” Jillian Rogers, Aug. 7, 2015