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Recently, the S.C. Legislature passed and Gov. Nikki Haley signed Chandler’s Law. The law, which was named after Chandler Saylor, is meant to keep children safe while riding all-terrain vehicles (ATVs.) However, I believe this law ultimately strips parents of their right to raise their child.
Sixteen-year-old Chandler Saylor was killed in 2003 while riding an ATV at a friend’s home. Since then, his parents have been on a vendetta to get Chandler’s Law passed. The law bans children under 6 from operating an ATV with or without their parent’s consent and even if they are under the direct supervision of their parent.
The law also requires that children between the ages of 6 and 16 must take an ATV-safety class and wear a helmet with eye protection to ride and operate an ATV.
I am a believer in limited government and, in my opinion, this law extends the government’s authority into an area that it has no business being in.
When I was 5 years old, my parents decided that I was mature and old enough to ride an ATV, so they purchased a small, 125 horsepower, Honda four-wheeler. My dad placed a restrictor on the throttle so that he could make sure I was driving slowly while learning how to operate the machine.
Gradually, I learned how to operate an ATV on my own with the direct supervision of my parents. I am not a parent, but I plan to be one in the future and I plan to teach my children how to ride an ATV in the same manner that my parents taught me.
I believe my children should be old enough to ride a four-wheeler when I say they are old enough, not when the government says they are.
I believe the state has no right to tell a parent when their child is old enough to ride an ATV on their own private property. Parents are smart enough to know if their child should be on an ATV.
Chandler’s Law also makes it a crime for people of all ages to operate an ATV recklessly; however, it offers no definition of what reckless is. I believe that a person who has been riding an ATV for many years may have a very different definition of what reckless is than a person who has been riding for a couple of months.
Furthermore, who gets to decide what reckless is? Under this law, the government will decide if you are riding recklessly and will punish you if it deems you reckless. I believe an individual or an individual’s parents should dictate what reckless is.
If an individual is on their own property and they want to operate an ATV reckless, I don’t believe it is the government’s place to tell them to stop unless that person may harm another person with their reckless actions.
This law also claims to protect private-property rights, but it gives the police authority to come on to private property without a warrant, under probable cause and force someone to prove that they are qualified to operate an ATV. This is an invasion of privacy and infringes on property rights.
The much bigger issue is the precedent this law creates. If government believes it must protect us from everything, including ourselves, then there are no limits to what the government will do. What happens if someone gets killed on a dirt bike or go-kart? Will we need regulations for these vehicles, too?
The fact is that these tragedies, like the death of Chandler Saylor, are going to happen and they are often unpreventable.
In my opinion, it is unfair for the government to strip parents of the right to raise their children the way they want to under the guise of protecting everyone.
I am disappointed that legislators, such as my representative, Jimmy Neal, feel that the government will do a better job raising our children than parents will.
I hope one day soon they will realize it is unfair to strip parents of their rights for one tragedy that occurs in the course of human events.
Ryan Payne is a Lancaster County