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Lamber: A step forward for child safety as off-highway vehicle law makes sense

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Marc Lamber
By Marc Lamber | Point of View

Finally, Arizona is coming to its senses.

Children under 16 do not belong on Off-Highway Vehicles, and now it’s against the law for them to drive one in this state.

The parade of injuries and deaths involving minors in Arizona OHV accidents is chilling.

Just last month, 13- and 14-year-old girls were ejected from a side-by-side ATV; one was killed while the other was critically injured. In the wake of that tragedy and too many others like it, SB 1567 is now law, requiring OHV drivers to have a valid driver’s license and take a safety course in off-road driving or face fines and penalties.

A necessary law

The new law, which will go into effect on Dec. 31, 2024, has significant teeth to it.

Drivers and passengers under 18 must wear helmets (with some exceptions, including motorcycles). If a minor under 12 drives an OHV, their parents will be issued a citation. If the minor is between 12 and 15, the citation can be issued to them or their parents.

Another significant step forward is the requirement that, beginning January 1, 2025, those operating OHVs must take a safety course certified by the Arizona Game and Fish Department and provide proof of that certification to the Arizona Department of Transportation.

In my 30 years of experience as a personal injury attorney, I have witnessed too many heartbreaking cases involving OHV accidents. As a father of two boys, the safety of children and teens is a subject close to my heart. I applaud Arizona for taking this critical step to protect our young ones.

Addressing the Alcohol Issue

Additionally, Arizona’s new OHV law prohibits open containers of spirituous liquor while operating or within the passenger compartment of a motor vehicle on any public highway or right-of-way in the state. This is significant because, up until now, OHVs were outside the definition of motor vehicles for open container prohibitions. This new regulation will help curb this dangerous behavior and contribute to safer off-road experiences for all.

Parental responsibility

The law also places a considerable emphasis on parental responsibility. Parents who allow their underage children to drive OHVs will face legal consequences. This law supports that responsibility, encouraging parents to be more vigilant and proactive in their children’s activities.

A safer future

Arizona’s new OHV law is a crucial step in the right direction. By requiring safety courses, enforcing helmet use, prohibiting alcohol, and holding parents accountable, the state is prioritizing the safety of its children and teens. It’s a move that I, as a personal injury attorney and a father, wholeheartedly support. Let’s hope this law sets a precedent for other states to follow, making off-road activities safer for everyone.

Editor’s Note: Marc Lamber is a Martindale Hubbell AV Preeminent-rated trial attorney and consumer advocate.

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