08/18/05 — ATV law may have little effect

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ATV law may have little effect

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on August 18, 2005 1:53 PM

A new state law that increases the minimum age for users of all-terrain vehicles will not have much effect on Wayne County law-enforcement agencies.

The measure bars children under 8-years-old from operating a four-wheeler. Until recently, North Carolina is one of a few states that has not regulated them.

But four-wheelers still "are a headache and a pain," said Maj. Billy Anderson, who supervises the Wayne County Sheriff's Office's patrol division.

Anderson says older users of all-terrain vehicles, or ATVs, create more problems than the younger ones.

"It's hard to catch them," Anderson said. "We can't send a patrol car across the field."

Maj. Mike Hopper, who supervises the Goldsboro Police Department's patrol division, said the city does not have many open spaces where ATVs are used.

"In the city, there is a greater chance of a law-enforcement officer riding by and seeing you," Hopper said.

He said the city has not received anything from the state on the proposed law.

Sheriff Carey Winders has complained that four-wheelers have been running amok across the county, damaging farmlands and fields. It is illegal to operate an ATV on a state-maintained roadway or within the road's right-of-way, but that has not stopped some drivers from risking collisions with cars and trucks.

Eleven children under the age of 16 died while operating ATVs in 2004 in North Carolina. Three people were killed since 2002 while riding them in Wayne County.

"You see more and more people getting hurt on them," Hopper said.

A Wayne Memorial Hospital police officer, J. Reid Lee, a former sheriff's deputy, was killed April 18 when his ATV ran off the left side of River Road and struck a utility pole.

A high school student, Travis Wayne Godwin, 17, was struck by a car Dec. 1, 2002, as he tried to cross Oakland Church Road.

A Duplin County resident, Jesse Brown Best, 68, of Warsaw, fell off the back of a four-wheeler and struck his head Aug. 9, 2002, and died the next day.

Because of the deaths and injuries, the N.C. Child Fatality Task Force recommended changes in the law. The new law requires drivers to wear helmets and eye protectors and limits children between the ages of 8 and 15 to models with engines of less than 90 cubic centimeters.