Feds Vote to Regulate 4-Wheel ATVs

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Personal Injury News

Article Date: 1/29/2010 | Resource: MLG

Feds Vote to Regulate 4-Wheel ATVs

“Industry held off regulations during the Bush years”

After years of urging by safety and consumer activists, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) today voted to write new rules to regulate four-wheeled all-terrain vehicles, sometimes called ROVs. The vehicles, which resemble rugged golf cards, are blamed for more than 100 deaths since 2003.

But though it sounds dramatic, the vote is really the beginning of the rule-making process, not the end. The CPSC will now solicit comments as it begins the rulemaking process, a procedure that will certainly take months and may take years.

The industry has resisted mandatory rules for years and was able to forestall new rules during the years the CPSC was controlled by GOP appointees. Further, today’s action is aimed specifically at four-wheeled ATVs and will not affect other ATVs.

The ATV industry has proposed voluntary guidelines but safety advocates say the guidelines have been inadequate and they said today’s action puts the industry on notice.

“Every year, more and more families are devastated by deaths and injuries caused by ATVs. This tragic problem continues to be in dire need of an aggressive and immediate solution,” said Rachel Weintraub, Director of Product Safety for Consumer Federation of America earlier this year.

The two-passenger, four-wheeled vehicles — also called side-by-sides — have been on the market since the late 1990s. Besides 116 deaths, they’ve been blamed for more than 150 serious injuries, including crushing injuries to the legs, feet and arms, including several amputations.

Safety regulators have expressed concern about the vehicles’ tendency to overturn at slow speeds.

In March, Yamaha recalled its Rhino ROV after two models were linked to 46 deaths in six years.

Casualties mount

In a report earlier this year, the CPSC said that for the eighth year in a row, serious injuries caused by all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) increased, and children under age 16 continued to suffer a significant portion of those injuries, according to a report released by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Estimated deaths on ATVs increased as well.

“This new report shows more of the same — continued high death and injury rates among children on all-terrain vehicles,” said American Academy of Pediatrics President David T. Tayloe, Jr., MD, FAAP. “ATVs continue to kill and seriously injure children at alarming rates. The CPSC’s meager efforts to stem the tide have been entirely ineffective, and industry has done nothing to make these dangerous vehicles safer.”

Major findings in the CPSC’s 2007 Annual Report on ATV-related Deaths and Injuries include:

• Serious injuries requiring emergency room treatment rose from 146,000 in 2006 to 150,900 in 2007, an increase of less than one percent that was not statistically significant. Since 2001, there has been a statistically significant 37% increase in serious injuries.

• The estimated number of ATV-related fatalities fell slightly from 948 in 2005 to 882 in 2006. To date, 542 reports of ATV-related fatalities have been identified for 2007, but this number is expected to increase as additional data are gathered. The states with the highest numbers of reported deaths identified in the period 2005-2007 were West Virginia (143), Florida (123) and Kentucky (114).

• In 2007, at least 107 children younger than 16 were killed on ATVs. This accounts for 20 percent of fatalities.

• Children under 16 suffered 40,000 serious injuries in 2007 — or 27 percent of all injuries. This is a 2 percent increase from the 2006 estimate. CPSC found that this decrease was not statistically significant. Since 2001, there has been a statistically significant increase of 17% in the number of children under 16 seriously injured on ATVs.

The CPSC data include a risk estimate of ATV injuries per 10,000 four-wheel ATVs. The risk estimate for 2007 is 153.9 compared with 163 in 2006. In making this determination, CPSC estimated that there were 9.5 million ATVs in use in 2007 and 8.6 million in use in 2006. In August 2006, CPSC denied a petition filed over six years ago by consumer and health groups demanding action on ATVs. Instead, the Commission moved forward with a rulemaking that would result in ATV standards. There is no timeline for the full rulemaking process and work on the rulemaking appears to have stalled.

The CPSC’s rulemaking, however, describes the development of a “transitional ATV” for children age 14 and older, which is of particular concern to consumer and public health advocates. These ATVs would likely have engines larger than those currently recommended for children under 16.

The CPSC, the ATV industry, the Consumer Federation of America, and many other consumer advocates recommend that children ages 12 through 15 not ride ATVs with engines larger than 90 cc’s.

On August 14, 2008, the President signed into the law the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which includes a provision focused on ATVs dealing primarily with protecting the economic interests of the largest ATV manufacturers.

The provision makes the current ANSI/SVIA voluntary standard mandatory; requires that the manufacturer of any ATV imported into the U.S. be party to ATV Action Plans; requires that CPSC continue its rulemaking process and consider multiple factors when categorizing youth ATVs; and requires that CPSC consult with NHTSA to determine the safety of numerous aspects of ATV safety.

The ANSI/SVIA standard sets forth a description of a transitional ATV, which contradicts that of CPSC’s proposed rule. The speed limit for transitional ATVs in the ANSI/SVIA standard is considerably higher than that in CPSC’s proposed rule.

“The CPSC data show that the hazards posed by ATVs continue unabated. Children should not be riding adult-size ATVs, ATVs must be designed to eliminate hazards and enforcement must be effective at both the federal and state level,” stated Weintraub.

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Jeffrey Marquart