The Oregonian‘s latest “Special Report”—their attempt to garner a Pulitzer, in other words—deals with those three- and more commonly four-wheeled deathtraps known as ATVs (or All Terrain Vehicles).

The Oregonian calls this report “ATVs: Deceptively Dangerous” which is fine, except that there’s nothing deceptive about it. Anyone nuts enough to ride an ATV knows they’re dangerous.

How do they know? The vehicles themselves and owner manuals are littered with warnings. Do not do this, do not do that, etc. New owners even have to sit through a 30 minute warning video at the dealership before they’re allowed to buy. Nobody can claim with any degree of seriousness nowadays that they didn’t know ATVs couldn’t be their demise.

In light of this, I think one would have to be crazy to ride one of these things, but you know what? This country is pretty much founded on the notion that anybody who wants to can be an idiot. Oh sure, some call it “freedom” but you say tomato, I say tah-mah-toe.

What about the argument that ATVs are inherent unsafe—a claim that is true in the case of, say, cigarettes—and so they should be banned altogether? This is a powerful argument, or, I should say, would be, if The Oregonian could find a single instance where an ATV accident occurred when operated within the manufacturer’s guidelines. The newspaper series isn’t over yet, but thus far, every case they’ve written about has been someone riding an ATV in a way they should not have.

[This is not say, of course, that one doesn’t feel awful for the individuals and families involved, regardless of blame.]

Ultimately, people cannot be stopped from behaving stupidly and one need only peruse the annals of human history to see proof. What warning would one have to put on an ATV to make a difference? “Warning: You’d have to be an idiot to ride one of these” comes close. But we’re practically there now, and it’s made no difference. People want to take ATVs and ride them up rock hills and go off jumps and otherwise use these vehicles in ways that could kill them. I have no problem with that except when they try to say it was the manufacturer’s fault afterward.