Fatal ATV accident raises safety questions for young NJ riders
SOUTHAMPTON — The fatal crash that took the life of a 14-year-old rider has left many questions about what happened, and also serves as a warning to other riders, according to police and the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.
Neither Nicolas Cunningham nor the other two 14-year-olds involved in the accident Saturday were wearing helmets, police said.
State Police spokesman Sgt. Jeff Flynn said helmets are required by law when riding an ATV, and said it is important that the law be followed.
"A person who is 14 can operate one of these vehicles, however a 14 year old is not allowed to operate a vehicle on any highway or road." Flynn added, "Passengers on ATV’s are also required to wear helmets, and that goes for dirt bikes and snowmobiles.”
New Jersey law states that anyone under the age of 16 is prohibited from driving an ATV or dirt bike with an engine bigger than 90cc's. According to Yamaha, the Rhino model would have an engine size of at least 450cc's.
But Flynn notes that those rules do not apply on private property and there are different rules for crossing a highway and other situations.
Mairin Bellack, director of communications for the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, said in addition to helmets, riders should also wear goggles, long sleeves, long pants, over the ankle boots and gloves.
While riders do not need a license or permit to operate an ATV, the state does require all vehicles to be registered, and anyone operating a vehicle under the age of 18 has to take a class offered by the ATV Safety Institute. According to the institute's website, there are no classes offered in New Jersey, with the closest locations being Dover, Delaware, Middletown, New York, and Roxbury, Pennsylvania.
Flynn said because of the nature of the vehicles, it is important for riders to consider the terrain they are on.
"ATV riders should operate with caution; it's not a paved road, the terrain can be different, you don't know what you're going to encounter," he said. "Obviously, we don't have speed limit restrictions where these vehicles are going to be operated, so parents really need to educate their children as far as what responsible operation is."
Especially for young riders, Bellack said it is important for parents to be aware and help keep everyone safe. "ATVs are not toys," she said. "You should only ride on designated trails at a safe speed."
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David Matthau contributed to this story
Contact reporter Adam Hochron at Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com