A single-vehicle ATV crash injured two Decatur County minors Sunday afternoon, in an accident Decatur County Sheriff Greg Allen said could have been much worse.
According to Allen, the 14-year-old driver of a four-wheel ATV sustained two broken wrists, a broken clavicle and a severely bruised foot and was airlifted to Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis. He’s since been released and is currently recuperating at home.
The ATV’s 12-year-old passenger sustained a forehead laceration and a possible concussion; he was treated at Decatur County Memorial Hospital and released.
Due to their ages, neither of the boys’ names is being released.
The accident occurred at the residence where the boys live, Allen said, on County Road Southwest 60 near County Road 900 South.
“The driver and his passenger were coming down their own one-lane driveway,” the sheriff explained. “For unknown reasons, the driver made an abrupt turn at 30 miles per hour, overturning the ATV and throwing both boys off.”
Allen and investigators from both the Sheriff’s Department and the Indiana Department of Conservation (who, according to Allen, ultimately oversee any accident involving an off-road vehicle) suspect the crash likely occurred because another resident of the house had started backing down the driveway when the ATV came along.
“Problem is,” Allen said, “as best as we can tell, there was never any danger posed to the ATV by the car. It’s a very long driveway, and there was more than sufficient distance between the two vehicles to avoid a collision without the ATV needing to make such an abrupt turn. We think the ATV driver simply mis-judged the distance; the car never came close to it.”
He continued, “But that’s a danger of having a 14-year-old operate one of these vehicles. These ATVs aren’t toys, and they need to be respected as such. The model involved in this accident has a 450 CC engine; that’s powerful enough for a top speed of 60-miles-an-hour or better.”
Regardless, the sheriff added, the 14-year-old was within his legal rights to operate the ATV.
“As long as the driver isn’t on public property,” he said, “there’s nothing we can do. Although most ATVs — and this one in particular — are labeled by the manufacturer with a recommended driving age of 16 and up, that’s only a guideline, not a law.”
Allen would welcome an amendment to Indiana law placing a strict minimum age limit on ATV drivers, whether on public or private property.
“A 450 CC engine is a little too much for a 14-year-old to govern,” he said. “A driver that young obviously has no state-mandated training and not much experience; plus, as demonstrated here, such drivers are prone to poor decision-making, which usually plays a big role in these types of crashes. We see these accidents far more often than we should, and it wouldn’t hurt for the state to regulate this.”
“I’d certainly support such legislation.”
Contact: Rob Cox at 812-663-3111 x7011.