By Taylor Brown
INDIANAPOLIS — Kate Bruggenschmidt was not wearing a helmet in July 2015 when the ATV she was driving flipped and trapped her underneath. She died of a head injury.
Randi Jo Pryor points to the last picture taken with her teammate, Kate Bruggenschmidt, before she was killed in an ATV accident. Pryor said Bruggenschmidt visited a friend to ride off-road vehicles in between softball games that day. Photo by Andi TenBarge, TheStatehouseFile.com
The 11-year-old’s story motivated Rep. Lloyd Arnold, R-Leavenworth, to introduce a bill that would require children under 18 to wear a helmet while operating or riding an off-road or all-terrain vehicle.
“ATV accidents, they don’t discriminate. It’s not about parents who aren’t watching their kids or parents who are watching their kids,” said Kate’s mother, Ashlee Bruggenschmidt. “The thing is people don’t think that something like that will happen to them.”
Bruggenschmidt testified about House Bill 1200 before the House Roads and Transportation Committee on Wednesday.
If passed, this bill would require all children under the age of 18 to wear a helmet while operating or riding an ATV on any public or private property. Failure to do so is a Class C infraction for both those riding and operating the vehicle. Offenders could face maximum of 60 days in jail and fines up to $500.
Arnold said he’s more concerned with educating the public rather than with punishment. He hopes that making children wear helmets at a young age would help decrease the number of ATV deaths in the long run by getting them in the habit of wearing them. Arnold said 2016 had the highest number of ATV deaths.
“In the state of Indiana in 2016, we had 21 fatalities and only three had helmets on,” Arnold said.
Ashlee Bruggenschmidt brought a toy version of an off-road vehicle to illustrate to lawmakers how the small item can be harmless, but the full-sized vehicle can do major damage. Rep. Mike Braun, R-Jasper, said he agrees riders under 18 should be mandated to wear helmets, but the bill would need more restrictions to reduce off-road vehicle accidents. Photo by Andi TenBarge, TheStatehouseFile.com
Also testifying was Kate’s 14-year-old friend and softball teammate, Randi Jo Pryor. She said she struggled trying to find a reason of her friend’s death but believes this accident happened to teach people in Indiana that wearing helmets is critical.
“If she would’ve had protection on her little head, she may still be alive, or at least she would’ve had a chance at survival,” Randi Jo said.
She hopes that passing this bill would prevent families and friends from going through the tragedy she has had to face.
“This law will give families the hope we were never given,” Randi Jo said.
Committee Chairman Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, decided to hold the bill until Feb. 1 after committee members raised concerns including whether there should be height and weight restrictions to ride or operate an ATV or whether operators should be licensed.
Taylor Brown is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.