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Motorcycle racer, 12, is dead. Why?

Published March 12, 2013

Another child racer has been killed, this time a 12-year-old boy who died as the result of a crash while racing a 250cc motorcycle at a racetrack in California. (For details, click here)

The accident happened March 3 at Buttonwillow Raceway Park and he’d been in a coma ever since at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles.

He was at Children’s Hospital, of course, because he was a child. He was taken off life support there on Monday.

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I have to report these stories from time to time and I hate doing it because any racing death is awful but those involving children are, to me, incomprehensible.

(I also have difficulty because my position on children racing is the opposite of many of my friends and some of them have their own kids involved.)

I am the father of three children and it never once crossed my mind to deliberately expose any of them to a game or activity in which they could be badly hurt, or worse. I believe the role of a parent is to protect children from danger until they reach an age when they can fully realize and appreciate the consequences and can make up their own minds whether or not to participate.

I don’t believe a 12-year-old – any 12-year-old – is mature enough to understand the meaning of death, which is something that can happen in a motor sport.

I don’t understand how a parent can sign a waiver that then allows a minor child to participate in something that could kill him. A parent can’t sign something that says it’s okay for their child to drink (which they can’t do, in licensed premises in most of Canada, until they are 19 and in the U.S. until they are 21). A parent can’t send a note over to the convenience store saying it’s okay for their kid to buy cigarettes. A child in Ontario has to stay in school until they turn 18, whether they want to or not, and a parent can’t sign something changing that. So how come it’s okay for a parent to put a 6-, 7- or 12-year-old on a motorcycle in competition and potentially sign that child’s life away?

I know the arguments. Motor sport teaches a child self-discipline, respect and manners. Physical fitness, mechanical skills and mental focus are other positives.

And I know all about “racing families,” where generations have been involved and, in some cases, the family business is in the sport and it’s natural for the children to want to follow the parents.

But although in some of those cases it’s understandable, it still doesn’t make it right. There are too many children at motor races who don’t want to be there but force themselves to fire up the kart or the bike and drive off to race so as not to disappoint their father – or to avoid catching hell later.

On their Facebook page, the family of the boy, Kenny Anderson, wrote that he “died doing what he loved.” Well, loving is learned behaviour and somebody taught him.

In the end, what matters is that a 12-year-old boy is dead before he really started to live. And that’s tragic. As the late sports columnist Dick Beddoes once wrote, and which I’ve repeated several times since and do so again today:

Now he knows all about death – before he knew very much about life.

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