Senate Bill to Allow "Tykes on Bikes"

, Written by Christine Pitawanich, Posted: Wed, March 13 2013 at 6:20 PM, Updated: Wed, March 13 2013 at 6:46 PM

It's being called "tykes on bikes"...a bill that has just passed the Oregon Senate and would allow kids age seven and under to ride off-road motorcycles on public land.

NBC 5 spoke with 17-year-old Emmie Gavin, who has a large scar that reminds her of a traumatic motorcycle accident she was involved in at just six years old.

"I lost control and I flipped over the handlebars and I flew like 20ft and the bike landed on top of me. The throttle got broken in the ground so the tire was just spinning on my leg in 3rd or 4th gear," she recalled.

The tire spun for 5-10 minutes and ripped through her protective clothing.

"I had to go to physical therapy almost everyday and [...] they had to melt all the rubber out of my leg," said Gavin.

Her story is one that stands out as the Oregon Senate passed Senate Bill 238 on Tuesday to put in place additional safety requirements for young riders. One safety measure: the "rider fit" test which looks at minimum size requirements for anyone under 16 years of age. However, it also allows children under the age of seven to ride off-road motorcycles on public land.

"I think so long as they're very well supervised I don't think it's too big of an issue," reflected Lindsey Yarnell, who is a mother.

Senate bill 238 specifies that a person who is 18 or older must accompany the child. However, there are still concerns about a child's ability to operate an off-road motorcycle.

"I personally don't feel like they can control those vehicles well enough at that age," said Phil Grammatica, a grandfather.

Gavin said she agreed that many small children don't have the strength to adequately operate a dirt bike. When she had her accident, she said she tried pushing the bike off her body, but it didn't budge.

Motorcycle experts we spoke with said there are safety mechanisms that can be added to motorcycles made for kids. Safety modifications include throttle limiters, training wheels and tethered kill switches that shut off the bike if a rider falls off.

These days, Gavin said a tethered kill switch is exactly what she uses to make sure what happened to her when she was six, doesn't happen again.

The bill now heads to the House, where last week legislators voted to ban minors from using a tanning bed without a doctor's note.

About the Author

Christine Pitawanich

Christine Pitawanich was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. In 2010, she received a master's degree in Broadcast Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in New York.

Christine also has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from the University of Washington.

Before joining the NBC5 News team, she had the opportunity to file reports from Washington D.C. for WFFT FOX Ft. Wayne News in Indiana. Christine has also interned at KOMO-TV in Seattle.

Christine loves to ski, try new food and have fun in the outdoors.

Catch Christine anchoring weekdays on NBC 5 News at 5pm.

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