First, let me say my heart goes out to all the families of accident victims who lost their lives or have been injured at Pismo State Beach. I am one of the lucky ones, because I survived a horrific incident while lying on the beach, reading a book. In March of 2003, I was run over by a 13- year-old child who lost control while riding an ATV. He had no prior experience, yet his parents rented the ATV and sent him off with very little training. After the initial impact, I was trapped under the burning engine before the child was finally able to rock the vehicle off me. The impact broke my wrist and has permanently injured my neck and back. If I hadn’t looked up in time to duck, the huge tire would have crushed my head. The boy’s parents had no insurance. Eventually, I will require back surgery to control the pain. So I have to question the common sense of parents, the State of California, and the ATV rental companies, who allow children to ride motorized vehicles on a public beach. Why not give them a loaded gun to play with as well?
I realize the local economy depends mainly on tourist dollars, so to ban off-road vehicles entirely could potentially put hotels, restaurants, and shops out of business. But at the very minimum, children under the age of 16 should not be allowed to drive or ride off-road vehicles on the beach or dunes. In addition, absolutely every rider should be required to show proof at the park’s entrance they have insurance covering off-road vehicle use and should be issued wearable tags. Perhaps sections of the dunes could be designated “one way only” to help prevent head-on collisions. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but it’s time we come up with some safe and workable solutions to this deadly problem, hopefully before someone else’s son, daughter, family member, or friend is killed or permanently injured.