Product Liability

ATV deaths prompt Mississippi to consider better ATV legislation

In December we reported how one Mississippi coroner became an advocate of stricter laws governing the use of all-terrain vehicles in her state after witnessing the injury and death the vehicles can cause. Now, other people in that state are echoing the call for more ATV legislation, including the Sheriff of Warren County, Mississippi and two state lawmakers.

Mississippi remains one of the few states with almost no laws restricting the use of ATVs. As a result, the number of ATV-related injuries and deaths in Mississippi is three times higher than in most other parts of the country.

Tragically, in Mississippi, children are too often the victims of the dangerous vehicles, and there is a growing feeling that the state’s lack of legislation governing their use and safety represents a big part of the problem.

Two days before Christmas, in Warren County, Mississippi, an ATV accident claimed the life of 15-year-old Caitlin Lopez, who was driving a Yamaha Big Bear when “suddenly it flipped,” according to Jackson NBC affiliate WLBT. The accident injured 6-year-old twin sisters Kimberly and Kaylee Madison, who were passengers in the Yamaha when it rolled over.

“Knowing that they’re here and that they’re walking and talking and breathing. It is remarkable to me,” Selena Madison, the mother of the twins, told WLBT.

Last year, Coroner Gillentine-Green pronounced the deaths of 20-year-old Crystal Hooper and her 5-year-old cousin Natalie Aguilar, who were killed when the ATV they were on crashed. According to available reports, Hooper lost control of the ATV and ran into a trailer full of building supplies. Both Hooper and Aguilar sustained head injuries in the accident.

But will adding new legislation, such as requiring the use of helmets, help reduce the number of ATV-related injuries and fatalities? Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace says it will.

“I attribute at least some of this to Mississippi’s lack of legislation,” Pace told WLBT, referring to the recent spate of ATV crashes that claimed the lives of Mississippi teens and children.

But Sheriff Pace also believes that the vehicles are dangerous to start with, and that anyone riding them should be extremely cautious, no matter what the laws are.

“In 2009, we’ve lost two beautiful teenage girls to four wheeler accidents. And they’re just inherently dangerous vehicles,” Pace said.

Two Mississippi legislators, Gray Tollison (D) and Dannie Reed (R) are also calling for better legislation.

“We need to consider legislation this session to decrease the increasing number of ATV deaths and serious injuries, especially children. I believe that the passage of a law requiring the use of a helmet and required training for persons without a drivers license would go a long way to reduce the number of ATV deaths and serious injuries in Mississippi,” Tollison said in a statement.