It's never easy to hear that a child has been killed in a terrible accident, regardless of how it happens or the circumstances that lead up to it. Accidents can happen in the most benign of settings -- the stairs, the bathtub, on the baseball field. That is why they are called accidents. On Friday, a toddler had an accident on a dirt bike track.
The 4 year old girl died while riding a dirt bike with training wheels on a commercial course in Cleveland, Ohio. My first reaction was sadness and grief for those poor parents. My second reaction was, "But that is so dangerous! I could not imagine letting my 4 year old get anywhere near a dirt bike!"
This is not the time to criticize or judge the parents who just lost a child. Regardless of their choice to let the child ride, they weren't technically doing anything wrong. It is perfectly legal to allow a child that age to ride a motorized vehicle on private property if the parents sign a consent form, at least in Ohio.
But my question is, how could this possibly be legal?!
When I think about my own children, and who they were at 4 years old, it's amazing they made it to 5. Most 4 years olds are reckless and without good judgement as it is. Putting them on a motorized vehicle that moves any faster than my legs can chase after them seems unimaginable to me.
Every parent has different standards of what is dangerous and what is not. And many parents think letting their toddlers ride a dirt bike is no big deal. A quick search on YouTube turned up dozens of home movies of 4 year olds tooling around fields and tracks on motorized dirt bikes. One youngster was even doing tricks -- lifting his leg off one side so as to be off balanced. My son would have never had the coordination or good sense to follow safe practices on a motorbike. And I wouldn't have been able to get through the experience without having a heart attack.
Am I the only one who seems terrified at this thought? Watch this video of one four year old. Other videos show children as young as 3.
I do not smother my kids in bubble wrap. They bicycle down hills. I would let them ride horses. They go hiking up cliffs. They tear down the ice on skates. These are not risk-free activities, by any stretch. Why, then, does the addition of an engine make it all the more terrifying? I don't like the government telling me or my kids can or can't do in America the land of the free, but like voting and drinking alcohol there's a right age for everything. Four just seems a little to young to drive.
Are you comfortable letting your toddler ride motorized bikes? Should the age limit be raised?
Image via Michael Heidenriech/Flickr