West Virginia has hit a record high with ATV deaths in 2005, after state newspapers tended to report a low number.

There were 40 deaths on the recreational vehicles.

At least seven of those deaths were kids aged 16 and younger.

WV has the highest per capita deaths and injuries in the USA.

The West Virginia University's Injury Control Research Center says the ATV laws related to safety are not working.

Hundreds of individuals, many children, were taken to emergency rooms, some of them suffering from permanent injuries.

Director of the center, Jim Helmcamp says the current law needs strengthened.

"I think everyone needs to wear helmets and I think there needs to be an expanded public awareness campaign," he said.

Few WV children took the ATV safety course, required in the newest safety law. It's a 10-minute video and a short test.

The legislature expanded the roadways on which ATVs can be ridden, all secondary roads without a center line, but a rider can travel short distances on primary roads, provided they hug the berm.

They are requiring helmets for riders under 18.

Opponents of the "open riding" rules in WV contend it's foolish to mix ATVs with cars and trucks on state highways, saying they were intended for off-road recreational use.

Double-riding is frequently practiced in the state, despite the safety warning on the ATV that the units are unsafe on hard-topped roads, becoming unstable.

Helmcamp says enforcement of the law is difficult.

"The DMV-required program just isn't reaching the kids it should reach and, typically, they're offered during the day so mom and dad or grandma and grandpa have to take off work and go to the DMV with the child," he said.

He says ATV safety should become part of the school curriculum, just like other health issues.

The State Department of Education has been reluctant to insert it in the all-ready overloaded schedule.

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