Product Liability

Pitt toddler Rhino ride causes stir

Like it or hate it, celebrities these days are watched and imitated. The celebrity tabloid world was buzzing today about a photo snapped of Brad Pitt holding his 2-year-old daughter, Shiloh, on his lap while he was driving a Yamaha Rhino ATV. Star watchers bashed the actor, noting that the Rhino is a powerful and heavy piece of equipment, and that he was placing the child in an unsafe situation.

The truth is, I come across these types of stories almost every day. Happy bloggers talk about their new Rhino or other ATV, looking forward to exciting times with their young children and posting photos similar to the one of Pitt. It makes me cringe to see small kids, sometimes with no helmet or other protective gear, pictured in these vehicles.

Almost as often, I read the stories of broken bones and lost loved ones as a joyride turns into tragedy.

ATVs are meant to be fun, of course, but they should be treated using extreme care and caution. Young people, in particular, should be properly trained about how to safely operate them and should always wear protective gear. These are NOT toys. These are pieces of heavy machinery with powerful engines. A Yamaha Rhino weighs more than 1,000 pounds.

The All-Terrain Vehicle Safety Institute (ASI), a not-for-profit division of the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America (SVIA), provides safety tips for ATV riders, including a caution that adults should closely supervise children younger than 16 on these vehicles. The organization also recommends that all ATV riders take a safety course.

Seeing a 2-year-old in her father’s arms on a Rhino in particular is scary. I’m sure he was going at a slow speed, and I’m sure he thought he was being careful. But pending claims against this particular vehicle allege that design defects make the Rhino fundamentally unstable. Information provided by the company’s web site, and in the Yamaha Rhino Owner’s Manual acknowledges that “abrupt maneuvers or aggressive driving have caused rollovers – even on flat, open areas.”

Thankfully, Pitt will only have to endure the criticisms of the public, rather than the heartbreak of serious injury caused by his thoughtless action. I hope that as his celebrity status spreads the story, others will get the message that ATVs can be dangerous. Unfortunately, however, his action may instead be imitated by others who won’t be so lucky.