Product Liability

CPSC data shows false decline in ATV deaths and injuries

According to the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s recently published all-terrain vehicle data “appears to indicate that the numbers of deaths and injuries caused by ATVs declined in 2008 as compared to 2007.”

However, CFA’s director for product safety, Rachel Weintraub, suggested that the CPSC data was misleading and that ATVs remain a serious threat to U.S. consumers, and particularly to children.

“ATVs are still causing hundreds of deaths and well over a hundred thousand injuries a year, which makes them one of the most dangerous products that CPSC oversees,” Weintraub said.

CPSC records show that at least 74 children were killed and 37,000 seriously injured in ATV rollovers and other accidents in 2008. These figures, however, do not include the number of children who were killed in Yamaha Rhinos and similar side-by-side vehicles, which the CPSC now classifies separately as recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs).

The CPSC removed reported incidents involving ATV deaths and injuries from the ATV incident reports, which are tracked in another database and will be reported separately.

Therefore, although it appears that ATV deaths and injuries are declining for children in the U.S., evidence strongly suggests a change in the CPSC’s record keeping methods is the cause of the apparent decline.

The CPSC considers an ATV to be an off-road, motorized vehicle having three or four low pressure tires, a straddle seat for the driver, and handlebars for steering control.

Off-road motor vehicles having steering wheels and either bench or bucket seats, such as golf carts, dune buggies, recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs), and certain types of utility vehicles are not categorized as ATVs by the CPSC.

The CPSC’s classification changes are bound to cause some confusion, as vehicles such as the Yamaha Rhino are now categorized with golf carts instead of with other off-road vehicles such as the Yamaha Grizzly, which the manufacturer officially calls the Grizzly ATV. Already a number of web sites are picking up stories on the decrease in ATV death rates because of the switch.

Despite changes to their name or classification – ATVs, ROVs, UTVs, ORVs, side by sides, or four wheelers — the risks associated with these vehicles remain the same.

“ATVs continue to represent a significant risk of injury and death for children,” chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics, H. Garry Gardner, MD FAAP, told the CFA, adding that “Children under the age of 16 should not operate or ride ATVs.”