EIGHTH TRY FOR ATV SAFETY - This Year's Bill May Be "Loved To Death"

Most lawmakers, safety advocates and riders agree — the state needs an ATV safety bill for children.

But for seven years, ATV child safety proposals have died in the Legislature.

Most of the proposals were tied to controversial issues — whether all-terrain vehicles should be allowed on paved roads, and whether safety rules should apply on private land.

Some safety advocates are trying something different this year, splitting the legislation into two parts - a child safety bill and a bill with other ATV regulations.

Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, D-Logan, decides where to send bills once they are introduced. Tomblin and his son are ATV riders. In the past he has sent ATV bills to the Senate Transportation Committee, chaired by Sen. Mike Ross, D-Randolph. Ross and his employees depend on ATVs in his oil and gas business. Ross is opposed to any regulations on private property.

Leff Moore, a lobbyist for ATV manufacturers, says the companies want safety regulations, politicians don't.

West Virginia is one of only six states with no laws regulating ATVs, and has one of the highest fatality rates, about 30 a year, along with hundreds of injuries, some permanent.

Sen. Mike Ross has a new idea — to require roll bars or cages on future ATVs. An engineer at West Virginia University says ATV makers could do it, said Ross.

Ross' proposals could kill any ATV bill, said ATV lobbyist Leff Moore.

"They call it 'loving it to death,'" Moore said. "I don't want to characterize somebody else's motives, but I know [Ross'] position is more akin to those who don't want legislation."

The state of West Virginia cannot require roll bars when no other state does, Moore said.