One of my main priorities this year is to find a commonsense and reliable way to reduce the rising number of ATV-related injuries and deaths in Indiana. I have authored legislation that would promote greater safety awareness and compliance by requiring those under the age of 18 to wear a helmet while riding or operating off-road vehicles, such as ATVs.
Recently, my bill came before the House Committee on Roads and Transportation, which gave committee members the chance to hear the inspiration behind the legislation. Many of you have likely heard the story of a 2015 accident that killed an 11-year-old Warrick County girl. In July of that year, Kate Bruggenschmidt was riding an ATV with a friend, also 11, on private property in Spencer County. While riding up a hill, the ATV rolled over and trapped Kate underneath, causing severe head trauma. She did not survive the accident. Neither of the girls were wearing helmets.
Kate’s mother, Ashlee, along with close friends and family, told the story of a wonderful little girl who had her life taken away from her at an incredibly young age. Kate’s friends remembered her with brave and courageous testimonies. One of the young girls also said something that really stuck out to me. She made the point that there wasn’t a way to follow the rules if there aren’t any rules to follow.
That question alone signifies the importance of this legislation and the great cause it embodies. The outpouring of support from the dozens of people who drove up to the Statehouse to give and listen to testimony was truly amazing.
The numbers also tell us that this is a challenge we must address this session. Over the last five years, 1,285 ATV-related injuries have occurred in Indiana. Unfortunately, fatalities are on the rise, according to Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources. In 2016, there were 21 deaths resulting from off-road vehicle accidents. That number is up from 16 the year before and 13 in 2014. Currently, Indiana’s state parks and facilities require ATV riders, regardless of age, to wear helmets. That requirement, however, does not extend to private property.
The bill will be heard again on Feb. 1 and a vote is expected. If the bill passes, it will head to the full House of Representatives for consideration. I intend to continue working to reduce the number of ATV-related deaths and raise awareness about the necessary safety precautions that should be taken by both children and adults. In doing so, we can honor the memory of Kate Bruggenschmidt and others by creating a safer way for all Hoosiers to enjoy the outdoors.
I encourage you to contact me with any questions or input at 317-232-9793 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about the work being done at the Statehouse by signing up to receive my email updates at www.in.gov/h74.
State Rep. Lloyd Arnold (R-Leavenworth) represents House District 74, which includes portions of Spencer, Dubois, Perry, Crawford and Orange counties.
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