Even those who advocate some level of safety legislation admit they sometimes don't wear helmets.
Ross said he cautions his employees on ATVs, but he doesn't always wear a helmet.
"No, I don't wear a helmet, but I don't speed either," Ross said.
Eight out of every 10 children injured or killed on an ATV were not wearing a helmet when they crashed in the past two years, according to CREM.
"I think that the youngsters should have helmets on. Now, when you get up to a farmer riding around the hayfield, I don't think you should have to wear a helmet," Ross said. "If you start a kid off with a helmet, it's like a seat belt — it's an educational process."
In tiny Mason, in Mason County, Mayor Raymond Cundiff uses good weather as an excuse to break out his ATV and ride around town.
"I ride around just to check on people," Cundiff said. "If someone has a complaint, instead of getting in my car, I jump on my four-wheeler."
Paved roads are no exception for Cundiff, though he said most riders stay clear of main roads.
Who is to blame?
A 1991 attorney general's informal opinion said ATVs are legal on roads because there is no law saying ATVs can't be used on public roads.
Except for a few select state communities, law enforcement officers don't have laws to warrant pulling over a four-wheeler being driven on public roads.
"Every law enforcement officer in the state has taken that opinion as saying that they have no power to stop them," Moore said. "It took everybody off the enforcement hook."
Supporters of ATV safety regulation say it's the parents' responsibility to protect young kids from the adult ATVs.
"We recognize that adults are the responsible and accountable parties," Moore says. "Without the benefit of mature training with that device, they [children] are liable to get hurt on it."
In some cases, children ride along with their parents, even though there's not a machine sold that's made for more than one person.
In a Honda safety video, the company stresses keeping one person on one ATV.
Some riders, however, might disagree with that advice.
Cundiff and his wife often double on their ATV.
"If we couldn't ride double, I would sell my ATV," he said.
'It's like riding on four balloons'
The four-wheeled machines most West Virginians buy weigh several hundred pounds.
Moore likened riding an ATV to riding on four balloons.
Paved-road riding is nearly impossible to pull off safely because of the axle and tread on ATVs, which are designed solely for off-road use, safety advocates say.
By shifting weight and balancing, riders are able to gain control of the machine, making steering and recreational riding safe, Moore said.
But young children, who often weigh a fraction of the weight of the adult machines, can't manage the bigger machines, safety advocates say.
"Too many adults view their ATV as a child's toy," Moore said. "The size of the rider is critical to ATVs' operation."
Honda and other ATV manufacturers recommend 16-year-olds and younger children stay off ATVs with engines larger than 90 cc. ATVs with smaller engines are sold to kids to help fit their body size, according to ATV safety literature.
A similar proposal to limit the engine size for young ATV riders was discussed by legislators in 1998, but it failed with the overall bill.
"Children need to be observed carefully, because not all children have the strength, size, skills or judgment needed to operate an ATV safely," according to the ATV Safety Institute.
When riders climb hills or mounds, Moore said, body weight should be shifted forward to balance the weight on the machine. Some accidents, however, occur when the rider or riders shift toward the back of the machine, tumbling it on top of them, Moore said.
"Riding on an ATV is an athletic event," Moore added. "Training causes you to learn to manage terrain, speed and weight shifting. A kid just doesn't get that."
'It may not be popular'
For four consecutive years, ATV legislation has died in the state Senate.
Members of the Senate Transportation Committee have failed to approve any significant version of the bill, state legislative records show.
In October, Gov. Bob Wise stood up for ATV regulations and said he will propose such a bill this year.
Helmet requirements are among his choices for a new law. But he avoided saying ATVs could be banned from all public roads.
"I think, clearly, people are ready and beginning to think hard about a need for some common-sense ATV legislation," he said at the time. "We've just lost too many young people. We lost three in one week alone. So it's time to do this."
Ross said he expects a successful bill during this year's session, which begins Wednesday.
"I think we'll definitely come up with something," he said. "I think something has to be done. It may not be popular for everyone, but we don't deal with everyone — we deal with the majority."
To contact staff writer Charles Shumaker, use e-mail or call 348-1240.