Last week, our newspaper had to print a story about a 12-year-old child who died after crashing his dirt bike into a truck while traveling on a public roadway in Floyd County.

The heartbreaking death of Betsy Layne Elementary student Dylan Mullins is one we wish we did not have to tell.

It’s just too terrible, and Dylan’s life ended too soon.

It’s a tragedy that should not have happened because, by law, children should not be operating any type of vehicle on any public roadway in this state.

But, unfortunately, we see this sort of thing happening all of the time in Eastern Kentucky, especially on rural roads, and it occurs more frequently this time of year.

One life is too much. 

Dylan isn’t the only local child who has died recently because a child was operating an unauthorized vehicle on a public road.

In April, an ATV crash on Hurricane Creek in Pike County killed six-year-old Keagan Ryan Music, a student at Johns Creek Elementary School, with the Kentucky State Police reporting that another juvenile was driving the ATV at the time of the crash.  

We ask all people who are responsible for dirt bikes, motorcycles and ATVs to reflect on the lives of Dylan Mullins and Keagan Music before allowing unlicensed people to operate the vehicle.

The moment of pleasure that child will receive from driving or riding that vehicle without a helmet is not worth the risk he or she is taking when that vehicle starts up and speeds away.

It’s just not worth it.

It’s easy for humans to think, “Well, that won’t happen to me or my son or daughter or grandchild.”

But that’s nothing more than false hope, a belief in something that isn’t real, because, as the families of Keagan and Dylan have learned, it can happen to any child who is operating one of these vehicles on a public roadway.

When a child’s life is at risk, there should be no hesitation. The decision made should be based solely on what is needed for that child’s safety. 

That is the responsibility of those responsible for the individuals and vehicle owners and community members as well.

All vehicle owners need to be vigilant on the laws and rules. If an unlicensed rider is allowed to operate one of these vehicles, they must still follow all laws and safety precautions.

Those who are operating vehicles legally on the roadways need to heed caution, as we know children can and sometimes will operate ATVs and other types of these vehicles on the roadways.

The community could also act as a deterrent by alerting the authorities when they witness illegal activities. It might save a life.

These types of vehicles are fun and a great way to explore the wilderness areas of our community. When used legally and within the limitations of their design, they can be both fun and useful.

But as with anything, it requires care and caution to operate these vehicles and avoid tragedy. Children are often unaware of the fragility of both their bodies and lives.

No summer fun is worth a child’s life. No parent should have to bury a child, taken in his or her youth, because of an avoidable tragedy.

We’re asking all people responsible for off-road vehicles to consider their choices when it comes to off-road vehicles such as motorcycles and ATVs. 

It’s simply not worth the cost of a life.

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