ANOTHER Senseless ATV Death of a Child

Robert Edwards Nov. 7, 2013

In this morning's Star Tribune was the sad story of a 10-year-old boy, Gavin Sutton, who was killed last Sunday near his home when the four wheeled ATV he was driving rolled over on him. The Todd County Sheriff reported that the boy was legally operating the vehicle because he was on private property. The sheriff also noted that the boy was "experienced on this vehicle", was wearing a helmet, and was traveling at a slow rate of speed. Family members nearby were "monitoring" Gavin as he was driving the ATV.

Back in the late 1980s I sued Honda for the unbelievably tragic injury to a young boy who was riding as a passenger on one of Honda's new four wheeled ATVs being driven by his older brother. As they traversed a relatively gentle slope near their uncle's home, the vehicle rolled over and the foot peg punctured the skull of the little boy, putting him into a persistent vegetative state from which he never recovered. During that lawsuit I cross examined the salesman at the dealership and asked him about the advisability of allowing children to drive these vehicles and he said that they strongly recommended that parents supervise their children while driving an ATV. I asked him how many parents he knew could run at 25 mph, and he had no answer. I then asked him if they only sold these vehicles in pairs so that a parent could ride along next to their child, and he had no answer for that question either.

The plain fact of the matter is that every time anyone gets on one of these ATVs they are essentially a test pilot. This goes double for children. Even though a person might be riding over the same territory they've gone over many times before, if they go just a little bit faster or at just a little different angle, the vehicle can tip over and serious injury or death will occur in a certain percentage of these cases. The Atty. Gen. of Texas described these vehicles as "rolling death machines" and I would have to agree with that.

A lawsuit against the manufacturer of this ATV will be met with the response that this was all the parents' fault, and that the owners manual and the vehicle itself are replete with warnings about not allowing this sort of thing to happen.