• Tue, Sep 2 - 12:00 pm ET

We Need Laws Protecting Children On Dirtbikes Because Idiots Like This Father Exist

child-in-motorcycle-helmetKids are required to be in appropriate car seats or boosters just about until they’re in college. So why is it that 90% of states have no laws on the books about minimum age requirements for passengers of ATVs and off-highway vehicles? All that most states are willing to say is that passengers have to wear helmets and that they need a foot peg or rest to rest their feet on. Legally speaking, a five-year-old who is legally required to sit in a booster seat in Mom’s minivan is totally fine clinging to the back of an off-road motor vehicle with nothing more than a footrest and a helmet for safety. Guess how well that plays out in practice?

A five-year-old in Macomb Township, Michigan sustained several injuries after being thrown from a mini dirt bike driven by his father, who is clearly a paragon of good decision making. The 27-year-old dad was apparently jumping hills on the side of Garfield Road between the street itself and the sidewalk, when the child came off the bike. Not only did the child go flying, but his or her helmet came off on impact. (If you’re going off-roading with your kid, actually fastening the helmet seems like the bare minimum safety precaution you need to take.) And just in case all this wasn’t bad enough, witnesses thought the child might also have been struck by the bike after hitting the ground. Fortunately, someone else who’d been on the road was able to flag down a passing sheriff’s patrol car immediately after the accident to get the poor child some help.

As with most states, Michigan doesn’t have a minimum passenger age, only a rule about the footrest being available. There’s no word yet on whether this mini dirt bike was equipped with any footpegs (or if it was, whether the child could reach then), so it’s unclear whether or not the father was breaking the law just by having the child on his bike. But there is another pretty important law in Michigan that requires passengers to be wearing helmets. And here’s the funny thing about helmets: they stop working once they come off your kid’s head.

This dad will most likely be facing charges of child endangerment, but wouldn’t it have been better to have a rule on the books in the first place that kids this small shouldn’t be put into a dangerous situation? I can’t guarantee that a law banning kids under the age of 8 or so from riding passenger on a dirt bike would have kept this child out of danger, but having it out there would hopefully make parents more likely to think twice about trying something like this.

We all like to think that accidents will never happen to us, but statistically speaking, they are going to happen to someone, and there is no reason not to do your best to make sure that what happens to you is an “accident” and not a “tragedy”. Riding ATVs and OHVs are big hobbies in a lot of places, and if you’re going to do so with your children, they can’t wear just any old cast-off helmet of yours, and they can’t wear it loose or unbuckled. Even if you don’t feel like using your brain, please do your best to ensure that your kids will continue to have the option to use theirs in the future.

(Image: Warren Goldswain/Shutterstock)

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  • rockmonster

    Whut. Why u no fasten helmet?

  • Bleu Cheese Bewbs

    WTF are foot pegs supposed to do to protect you in a crash anyway?

    • Jen TheTit Whipper

      I know my husband told me to use them to push myself off if we were going to crash. to move myself out of the way of the ATV so I didn’t get pinned. Not sure if it’s the same for little ones though. We never allowed anyone who wasn’t 18 to ride ours.

    • Bleu Cheese Bewbs

      That makes sense, too. I am ATV experience-less, so I had no idea.

    • Rachel Sea

      Not having foot pegs means your balance is for shit, and you are more likely to come off if the bike hits a bump.

    • Bleu Cheese Bewbs

      Ah, that makes sense. Thanks!

  • Katherine Handcock

    I totally agree. However, given all the details of this one, a law saying he couldn’t do it wouldn’t have stopped this dad. Hopefully it would stop a lot of other people, though.

    • SunnyD847

      Yes, but he might have been cited, fined, etc. before his child was injured and that could have changed his behavior.

  • Michael Weldon

    This law is not really needed. Child endagerment laws should cover it well enough.
    Younger than 8 is just fine for a smooth ride to get the mail or something along those lines, the dad was crazy to do jumps with the kid on board.

    • whiteroses

      Yeah- here’s hoping there’s no potholes or big rocks on the way…

    • Michael Weldon

      An adult can easily navigate an ATV. The dad here was an idiot. My problem with this proposed law is that it appears to be an attempt to legislate away stupid behavior while it punishes those who can do an easy task safely.
      Also, if this is passed what happens the next time an under-8 gymnast gets hurt from a fall or some kid falls of a horse? Every single situation under the sun can’t have its own law and a broad reading of child endangerment laws should be just fine.

    • whiteroses

      If a kid rides on a horse, they should be wearing a helmet. And we tell kids that of they’re riding a bike they should wear a helmet- the same should be true of ATVs. Kids don’t need to be passengers on ATVs if their parents can’t follow basic safety.

    • Michael Weldon

      Agree 100%. Safety gear needs to be worn and adults need to act like adults.
      I just don’t see any need for the law as proposed by the author.

    • whiteroses

      So things like this don’t happen, and if they do the adults can be held criminally liable.

    • Michael Weldon

      They already are-the dad is looking at child endangerment charges.

  • Alicia

    Imo, if it has a motor and is a vehicle, you should need a license to operate it or ride as a passenger. The battery powered ones are fun for kids and much safer

    • Kheldarson

      But, definitionally, needing to have a license to ride something that is a vehicle and has a motor means cars too. And most modes of transportation.

      Now, requiring a license to drive the things with a required class on safety regulations and needed protection for you and passengers would be good; might even stop the brats in my neighborhood who never slow down while blowing past me and my child on the road.

  • Warren Pacholzuk

    We are over regulated as it is. Any assine law that could be made, would not have stopped this from happening. Stupid is as stupid does, and no law will change that.
    If he was that stupid in the first place, why would any reasonable person expect him to comply with any law?

  • C.J.

    We had a mini dirt bike when I was 11, my sister was 7 and my brother was 3. We lived in the county at the time and had a large yard with cornfields behind us. That was back before helmets were popular while riding a dirt bike. I was taught how to safely drive it myself. My sister had to ride with my dad and my brother wasn’t allowed to ride because he was too little. We never rode it anywhere but our own yard and the cornfields. I was not allowed to try any tricks on it and my dad certainly didn’t try jumping hills when my sister was riding with him. This guy just sounds like an idiot. I doubt a law will deter people like him. That should be common sense.

  • NIGHTHAVEN

    I am not saying I agree or disagree with any laws. I think when laws are made they really are ment to protect people because of jackasses like this father. HOWEVER, even car seat laws are FUCKED up sometimes. IE no one can decide for booster seat if you go by AGE, WEIGHT, Or height. I live in Ont Canada and had been stopped by OPP when I had my nephew with me. due to his HEIGHT they told me he was UNSAFE in his booster but due to his AGE he legally had to BE in one. (he was SO uncomfortable) that was a few years ago. NOW I am 4ft 11″ and at 9 years old he is around 2″ shorter than me. I was at a play ground with him and I had other Parents inform me he was TOO OLD to be on the play ground with the younger kids (he was playing nicly with them too) Back to this article my nephew would be TALL enough and we have taught him to be SAFE enough and HIS FATHER would not be STUPID like this father that even at a YOUNG age of 5-6 people thought he was 8 so he would be able to ride a dirt bike with supervision etc but that is MY nephew (and we know he would be ok with this resposiblity like walking alone and playing at a park every kid and family are going to be different regardless of laws) other jackass parents who can’t be bothered to teach safety like doing up a helmet wouldn’t follow laws anyway.