- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 22, 2001

The cliche about ambulance-chasing lawyers is out of date. It needs to be updated to reflect the times. Today, it is politicians, not lawyers, who chase ambulances. Only the motive power and the ability to exercise control over peoples lives, rather than a fat settlement check has changed.

In Maryland, an accident involving off-road dirt bikes being ridden on private land has become the rallying cry for Democratic politicians, such as State Sen. Thomas V. "Mike" Miller, who want to ban the dirt bikes, or give the government the right to regulate their use even on private land.

Dirt bikes are small motorcycles designed for riding on trails; they are not "street legal" and as such no special license or age restrictions apply to their use on privately owned land. They are very popular among young people as well as adults.

Last weekend, two boys out riding on a farm near Mechanicsville were involved in an accident that left one of the youngsters dead. Mr. Miller´s immediate reaction? Regulation lots of it.

"This is a tragic occurrence," he said stating the obvious. "…until we get the message to parents that they can withstand the pressure of their youngsters wanting to do what their neighbor´s kids are doing, we are going to continue having these problems," Mr. Miller continued vowing to push for controls on who may ride dirt bikes, when, and where, during the next session of the Maryland state legislature.

According to Mr. Miller, in the first place, kids who ride dirt bikes a popular recreational sport that is often the first step in a young person´s education about motorcycles and motorcycle riding only do so because of peer pressure, a need to emulate "the neighbor´s kids." Second, the tone of Mr. Miller´s comments implies that only the state, acting in loco parentis, has the wisdom to decide what is and what is not appropriate for children or youths. Certainly not the parents themselves, at any rate.

The death of a young person is always tragic no matter the circumstances. But the first reaction to such a tragedy should not be more government we have enough of that already. Operated safely and under proper supervision, dirt bikes are no more dangerous than skateboards, scooters, or any of the dozens of toys and implements that young people use. Do we really want government busybodies telling parents what their children may play with in their own backyards?

The answer, clearly, is no.


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