States increasing ATV access to roads, despite warnings

Legalization thought to be linked to tourism revenue

By Myra Arthur - Anchor/Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - In the past decade, 35 states have begun allowing all-terrain vehicles on public and private roads under certain conditions, according to the Consumer Federation of America.

"The bottom line is that it increases the risk of death for consumers," said Rachel Weintraub, legislative director for the Consumer Federation of America. "The idea that more and more states and localities are permitting more access is based on a lack of information and lack of consideration."

Weintraub says the notion that ATV road access could fuel an increase in tourism revenue is often behind legalizing the practice.

"It started out just like any other play date. It started out just like any other day," said Katie Kearney, of the fateful day her son Sean, 8, was fatally injured in an ATV crash.

"My husband dropped him off and just assumed the activities for the day would be street hockey and video games and what normal 8-year-old boys do," she said.

Sean suffered a severe head injury and died in a Boston hospital five days later.

ATV accidents kill more than 700 people and injure almost 200,000 nationwide each year.

"Those are families, those are classmates, those are schools ... people grieving the loss of a child," said Weintraub.

Near two-thirds of ATV deaths are the results of accidents on public or private roads.

"Usually if it happens, it's not going to be a good outcome," said Sgt. Neil Quick of the Kendall County Sheriff's Office.

Riding ATVs on roads remains illegal in Texas and is a Class C misdemeanor that comes with a maximum $500 fine.

But still, it happens -- and not just in rural communities.

In June 2013, a teenage girl suffered a severe brain injury after being thrown from an ATV while riding on a street on San Antonio's South Side.

Thankfully, the girl survived.

"If you say you're just going down the street, is it really worth just going down the street and not making it back to your family or loved ones?" Quick said.

Texas allows for some exceptions when it comes to allowing ATVs on roads.

The vehicles are allowed on roads if the operator is a farmer or rancher traveling fewer than 25 miles, a public utility worker or law enforcement officer.

Click here to find out more about the state rules and regulations on ATVs and other off-highway vehicles.

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