A record 32 people were killed in ATV accidents in West Virginia in 2004, and more may be unreported, according to the West Virginia University Center for Rural Emergency Medicine.

The state has led the nation in ATV deaths for several years.

The WVU research group does not track non-fatal ATV accidents, which cause hundreds of ER visits annually, with many riders and passengers experiencing permanent injuries.

Calhoun has had its share of deaths and at least two such accidents in Calhoun have caused permanent disability in recent months.

The center says data on non-fatal ATV accidents has been poorly collected, although efforts are now being made.

A new ATV travel law was passed by the legislature last year, which permits the driving of ATVs on several thousands of miles of state highways without center lines.

The law allows ATVs to travel on roads with center lines, where they can travel 25 miles-per-hour for up to 10 miles, providing they are riding the berm. The law also requires anyone under 18 to wear helmets and take a safety certification course.

Safety officials have opposed such wide-spread usage on state highways, mixing the recreational vehicles with cars, trucks and traffic. ATV manufacturers have told the legislature that ATVs are unsafe on hard-top roads, and more particularly with a passenger on back. The vehicles become unstable.

The late Leff Moore, who was a lobbyist for rec vehicles in the state, said "Why people have decided they are for on-road travel is beyond me."

Legislators declined to listen to the manufacturers and listened to the enthusiasts, broadening their use on open highways.

An estimated 150,000 ATVs are in operation in the state.

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