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On June 14, Linda Russell learned that her son Tyler Massey, 9, had been killed when the ATV he was riding rolled over.
"Most days I can't even believe this is happening," said Ms. Russell, fighting back tears. "People keep telling me to take the time to grieve but I just think, in the meantime, how many more kids will be hurt?"Since the tragedy Ms. Russell has dedicated herself to push for new ATV legislation that would restrict children 14 and under from riding full-size ATVs, and ensure children under 16 only ride size- and age-appropriate vehicles. An online petition at www.tylermassey.ca is seeking signatures in support of the Tyler Massey Law, which would allow Ms. Russell and her fellow organizers to take it to Queen's Park.
"Our team is quickly expanding with all the support we're receiving,' she said, noting an initial temporary page put online on July 16 was quickly inundated with visitors, and has since been replaced with a more fulsome site at the same address."For me it validates why Tyler was here for only nine years, it means he's striking a chord with people," she said. "For me it means his life in the physical world will continue to have a positive impact, like it did when he was here."
While Tyler was well-schooled in safety, being an avid dirt-bike rider for most of his life, Ms. Russell, who wasn't present at the time of the accident, said like any kid he jumped at the opportunity to ride a full-size ATV when it was offered."This isn't for avid dirt-bike riders or ATV users, they already know the guidelines," she said of the legislation she's seeking.
"This is for the parents who want their child to have fun one day and aren't aware of the danger. Children are getting hurt over and over. I hope this petition strengthens the laws and requires children to be older, more mature, stronger and more educated before riding ATVs. Ultimately, I hope no other parent has to suffer like I have."While the support has been fast and overwhelming, Ms. Russell notes the team has also received some backlash from people who think ATV rules should be left to parental discretion.
"I'm willing to take any kind of negative feedback because I think the positive far outweighs any of the negative,' she said, noting dissenters can still help move the conversation along. "Even negative feedback might make people think and generate conversation and awareness."Her friend and fellow petition organizer Jennifer Adcock notes they are not trying to prevent children from riding ATVs full-stop, as some people have assumed, but to make sure safety guidelines are enforced. The proposed legislation is modeled on Nova Scotia's existing Off-highway Vehicles Act, which requires children and parents to undergo safety training and obtain a safety certificate in order to ride vehicles such as ATVs, dirt bikes and snowmobiles.
"We're not telling people they can't ride ATVs; the whole idea is to educate yourself," she explains. "We want to make sure the ATVs children are riding are size- and age-appropriate and that they're wearing the proper safety gear."Ms. Russell points out that a wealth of published data supports the idea that ATVs can be harmful for children if manufacturer's restrictions on age and weight are not followed.
A 2006 study in the Journal of Pediatric Surgery found that nearly half of all ATV-related injuries, and more than 35 per cent of ATV-related deaths, are suffered by children 16 and under. Another study by the Canadian Pediatric Society found the rate of ATV-related hospitalizations went up 57 per cent between 1996 and 2004, increasing from 1,700 admissions in 1996/1997 to more than 2,800 in 2004/2005. And those numbers have continued to rise, with an overall increase in the hospitalization rate of 17 per cent by 2009, according to the Canadian Institutes for Health Information."This is very timely, the time is now," Ms. Russell said of the legislation.
"It's too late for Tyler but if his life can save other children's lives that will be his legacy. It's comforting for me because it gives his life more meaning."Durham MP Granville Anderson was aware of Tyler's death, and said he would be happy to support new safety legislation since the only existing ATV legislation revolves around when and where they can be used on public roads.
"I would support that, anything that keeps children safe," he said. "If it helps prevent a tragedy like what happened that's something I would be in favour of."Visit www.tylermassey.ca for more information or to sign the petition. The website includes a link to a memorial fund for Tyler, which Ms. Russell hopes to use to build a playground at Goodwood Public School, where Tyler was attending Grade 3.
"He would just love that, he was always complaining that he didn't have a playground to play on at school," she said, noting he was always happy and smiling and a lover of the outdoors, in addition to riding his dirt bike weekly at the Oshawa Competition Motorcycle Club in Claremont.He was always the first out the door for recess, no matter the season.
"If something tangible could come out of this tragedy, what else can I really ask for?"Moya Dillon covers Uxbridge for the Metroland Media Grioup
|Tags:Tyler Massey Law | Ontario Off Road Vehicle Act | ATV Laws|