A 17-year-old boy was killed this month in Reston, Virginia, when a car hit his minibike. He was on Reston Parkway when he tried to make a left turn onto Wiehle Avenue. An Acura MDX SUV had the right of way and struck his bike and another car. The accident happened on May 9, and the boy died four days later.
The minibike didn’t stand a chance in a collision with an SUV. The boy was thrown off the bike about eight feet into the air. One witness said the impact was so severe that the minibike exploded. Another witness literally kicked the remains of the bike out from under the Acura to put out the flames. At least ten cars stopped, and bystanders cried as they saw what was left of the bike, the boy unconscious on the ground, and the driver of the Acura crying and throwing his hands in the air.
I am sure everyone at the accident scene was devastated by what they saw. A witness to the crash said, despite the passing weeks, he still can’t get the images out of his head. Another said she just kept thinking , ‘His poor mother.’
Minibikes, also known as “pit bikes” or “pocket bikes”, generally range in power from 50cc to 70cc, although I have seen ads for engines up to 120cc. They are relatively inexpensive with prices starting at about $275. Most importantly, minibikes are illegal to drive on any public road in Virginia. Read the product description for one of these bikes and it’s clear why: they have a seat height less than 24 inches – that could put the driver’s line of sight as low as a car’s bumper – but they have an engine powerful enough to go 40 mph or more. They were designed for back yard and recreational use, but public safety officers have been battling to keep them off the road in recent years as their popularity as a cheap means of transportation increases.
Between 2009 and 2013, about 4,500 minors went to the emergency room for minibike-related injuries. Between 2003 and 2012, 25 minors died in minibike accidents, 15 of which were the result of a collision with a road vehicle.
When I think of the serious injuries sustained from moped accidents (there were 561 crashes with mopeds in Virginia in 2012 alone) and compare it to the less-safe and more powerful minibike, I wonder what can be done. Perhaps a public service announcement campaign could raise awareness about their misuse. Police officers should certainly enforce existing laws to cite people caught driving them illegally. Ultimately, I think parents need to talk to their kids about the dangers of the road and the importance of safe driving, which in this case means keeping the minibike in the backyard and off the road.