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One year later: helmet law saving lives

SOUTH BEND, Ind. --

It's been a year since an Indiana law went into effect requiring anyone under 18 to wear a helmet on all off-road vehicles. 

The law came after 23 deaths resulted from off-road vehicle accidents in 2016, one of the deadliest years for ORVs. Of those 23 deaths, seven of those were children under the age of 18. 

The law includes dirt bikes, four wheelers, and modern ATVs like side-by-sides. Even off-road vehicles with seatbelts require juveniles to have a helmet. 

Indiana Conservation Officer Matt Maher says the high speed of these vehicles in addition to limited safety features create a dangerous situation. 

"Almost every accident involving an ATV involves an ejection or a serious bodily injury,” said Maher. “It's not like an automobile accident where you have a minor fender bender. It's usually, the ATV is rolling, you're being ejected from it, and the machine can roll over on top of you. I think that that's where we really see the importance of the helmet law come into effect. 

Maher says the response over the last year has been positive, and since it went into effect, no one under the age of 18 has died from an off-road vehicle crash. 

"The public perception is positive because it's safety. It's geared completely towards safety. Is it an inconvenience? Yeah sometimes it can be. Is it uncomfortable? Absolutely, can be in the heat especially. But when people understand that the motivation behind it is preventing fatalities especially in our youth, I think we really see a lot less kickback because of that,” said Maher. 

Although the law only requires those under the age of 18 to wear a helmet, Maher says he’s seen more adults putting helmets on as well.

“With this law encouraging parents to put helmets on the kids, the parents are going to put helmets on as well,” he said. “Then these kids, as they begin to age out of the law and they’re no longer required to, it will just be something that they’re used to. It’ll be muscle memory.”

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