ATVs in the news

gwcrim

Subscriber
Joined
Oct 3, 2002
Messages
1,881
Likes
0
#1
From the front page of today's Wall Street Journal:

As ATVs Take Off in Sales,
Deaths and Injuries Mount

Motorcycle-Like Vehicles
Fall Into Regulatory Void;
Industry Split on Rules
By JOHN J. FIALKA
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- The last time Jessica Adams's mother saw her alive, she was spread-eagle on a gravel embankment along a rural road here. Jessica looked like she was sleeping, but her neck was broken. By the time she arrived at the hospital, she was dead.

Jessica, a petite 13-year-old, and another girl, age 14, had borrowed an adult-size all-terrain vehicle and sped off down a paved road to a nearby Boy Scout camp. Witnesses saw Jessica sitting behind the driver. Police say she died after the ATV veered out of control, climbed a 5-foot embankment and hit a tree.

Sales of ATVs -- the four-wheel, motorcycle-like vehicles made to navigate rough terrain at speeds as high as 70 mph -- climbed 89% between 1997 and 2002. In 2002, the latest year for which figures are available, manufacturers say they sold 825,000 ATVs in the U.S., exceeding sales of small pickup trucks. Kawasaki Motors Corp., Honda Motor Co., Arctic Cat Inc., Polaris Industries Inc., Yamaha Motor Corp. and other ATV makers that previously focused on selling snowmobiles say they've found a juicier market in ATVs.

But as ATV sales have expanded to more than $3 billion a year, so have deaths and injuries, particularly among children. According to the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission, Jessica was one of 357 people to die in ATV crashes in 2002, up 67% from 1997. Serious injuries more than doubled in the same period, with 113,900 riders hurt in 2002.

Since 1992, a third of the injured have been under 16, and children under 12 have accounted for 14% of deaths. ATV injuries are 12 times as likely to be fatal to children as bicycle accidents, says the National Safe Kids Campaign, a nonprofit that tracks childhood deaths.

Judging the relative danger of ATVs is tricky. There were more deaths and injuries on ATVs than on snowmobiles or personal watercraft in 2002. ATV use results in more injuries per vehicle than cars, though there are more deaths per vehicle in cars. A more meaningful measure might be deaths and injuries per mile traveled, but those figures aren't available for ATVs, snowmobiles or personal watercraft. Cars travel many more miles than the other vehicles.

When problems first cropped up with ATVs in the 1980s, federal regulators prodded the industry to stop making three-wheel versions. But today, their four-wheel cousins operate in a virtual regulatory void. Unlike cars, trucks and motorcycles, they aren't subject to regulation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration because they're not designed for highway use. The CPSC is investigating allegations of safety problems but hasn't found any evidence of improper design. Since the agency only regulates products, not their potential misuse, the agency's chairman says states are in a better position to deal with ATV accidents.


Yet state regulation is minimal. Only 10 states require that ATV drivers have a driver's license. While 27 states set a minimum age for ATV drivers, two-thirds allow 12-year-old drivers and, in Utah, 8-year-olds are legal. Only 20 states require riders to wear helmets. Thirty-four bar most uses of ATVs on paved roads, but those laws are frequently ignored. In West Virginia, with the nation's highest ATV-related per capita death rate, legislators have debated rules for seven years without passing any.

With little pressure from the government, the industry has had internal fights over how much to regulate itself, if at all. Alarmed by increased deaths and injuries and concerned about potential liability, manufacturers have proposed laws in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and other states that would require riders to wear helmets, bar ATVs from paved roads, prohibit passengers on ATVs, and keep children under 16 off adult-size vehicles. The industry "really has a comprehensive plan in place and states are implementing pieces of that in varying degrees," says Tim Buche, president of the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America in Irvine, Calif., which represents ATV makers.

But ATV makers have encountered resistance from some dealers who favor allowing passengers on ATVs and want to open more paved roads to the vehicles. Meanwhile, consumer advocates criticize manufacturers' proposals as being designed merely to shift responsibility from companies to consumers and state law-enforcement authorities. These advocates prefer a federal ban on sales of ATVs for use by kids under 16.

"Self-regulation by the ATV industry has led to larger and faster ATVs and more children being killed and injured," says Rachel Weintraub, an attorney for the Consumer Federation of America in Washington.

Manufacturers also are resisting some state regulation. In Maine, for example, legislators are preparing to address ATV safety and trespassing problems. The industry has countered with less-stringent proposals. "Industry is more focused on this than they have been in a long time," says Paul Jaques, head of an ATV task force appointed by Maine's governor. "They recognize that if somebody doesn't do something about these things, this whole thing's going to blow up."

The first ATV was a small, motorized tricycle developed by a Honda engineer around 1970. The machines were first popular among farmers, foresters and others who put them to work. Recreational users began to boost U.S. sales in the 1980s.

But the three-wheel vehicles were difficult to handle, especially for untrained drivers. After more than 260 ATV users died in accidents in 1987, the CPSC sued the five largest manufacturers, asking a federal court to halt production and sales because ATVs were "imminently dangerous consumer products."

The manufacturers, who had already planned to switch to four-wheel vehicles, agreed to stop production of three-wheelers. They also agreed to stress more prominently warnings that are now bolted onto today's vehicles. The warning labels say drivers should wear helmets; passengers shouldn't be allowed; the vehicles are hard to steer on paved roads because the low-inflated balloon tires are made to grip uneven terrain; and children under 16 should ride only smaller, less-powerful machines under parental supervision.

Four-wheel ATVs, which are more stable, soon grew more popular than their predecessors, especially with recreational users. Sales over the last 10 years have increased five-fold, and 70% of users now ride ATVs as a "family recreational activity," according to the ATV manufacturers group.


In recent years, the industry has rolled out hot-rod-like "high performance" ATVs capable of higher speeds and quicker acceleration. Marketing pitches revel in speed and power. In sales brochures for its Predator ATV line, Polaris says "survival of the fittest is the rule ... And like all dominant beasts, Predator continues to evolve. That's a good thing. Because out here, you're either Predator or you're prey." The line includes adult models and smaller versions built for children as young as 6.

A Yamaha brochure for one of its less-powerful models says, "The whole point of the ATV movement is to get out there and experience Mother Nature; the pace at which you experience it is, of course, entirely up to you. Tear along when the mood strikes you."

Manufacturers say they don't market adult-size models to youngsters. In brochures, the industry shows family groups wearing goggles and helmets, with parents supervising children, who ride smaller machines. "Riding an ATV is an exercise in responsibility," says a Honda brochure.

However, children often use adult-size ATVs. Jeff DeVol, a dealer in Parkersburg, W. Va., says he and his salesmen tell customers that children can't safely handle adult-size machines, which cost $3,000 to $6,000 apiece, and urge parents to buy child-size models, which run as high as $3,000. But some buyers don't believe him, he says, and many can't afford more than one machine. Buyers sometimes fib about the recipient and get a "household ATV" that winds up being used by teens, he says.

The Consumer Federation and several medical and environmental groups have petitioned the CPSC to ban the sale of adult-size ATVs for use by children under 16. Ms. Weintraub of the Consumer Federation says the ban would enable the agency to fine or bring criminal charges against manufacturers who don't police dealers. It would also send "a powerful message to parents," she says.

The CPSC has the power to impose a ban or order vehicles redesigned if it finds they pose substantial harm, says Hal Stratton, the commission's Republican chairman. But, after months of research and public hearings in West Virginia, New Mexico and Alaska, the agency hasn't found design flaws so much as "behavior problems" in how people ride, he says.

Even consumer advocates haven't cited design flaws in ATVs. And because the CPSC regulates products, not how people use them, it may not be able to act, Mr. Stratton says. However, agency staffers haven't completed their investigation or decided what could be done. One possibility is suggesting model legislation to states, Mr. Stratton says.

West Virginia's experience suggests why state regulation is piecemeal or nonexistent. The rural, mountainous state is one of six with no ATV regulations. It counts about 200,000 of the vehicles, or about one for every nine persons.

The number of deaths and injuries among young people "is an epidemic in terms of what we previously experienced," says Jim Helmkamp, an epidemiologist for the Center for Rural Emergency Medicine at West Virginia University. Since 1990, West Virginia has averaged 15 ATV deaths per year, at least 35% of them on paved roads. Last year, there were 27, the center says. Mr. Helmkamp has conducted studies showing that states with helmet-use and other regulations have lower death and injury rates.

Julian Bailes, head of the neurosurgery department at West Virginia University Hospital, where Jessica Adams was pronounced dead, says the hospital's emergency staff has seen 238 ATV-related injuries and deaths over the last decade. About a third of the victims were under 18 and 80% weren't wearing helmets, he says.

"What stands out is the stupidity of some of these accidents," he says. The worst involve parents carrying young children as passengers. The kids are "almost always thrown off and sometimes the vehicle rolls over on them."

But efforts to regulate ATV use, including that by children, have gone nowhere. "The local bubba wants to ride on the roads," says Leff Moore, lobbyist for West Virginia's Recreational Vehicle Association, a group of 14 dealers who have been pushing the manufacturers' proposed legislation since 1996. It would codify into law the warnings already bolted onto vehicles, requiring helmet use and barring children under 16 from riding on adult-size ATVs.

The legislation has never gotten close to a decisive vote, largely because of opposition by a splinter group of ATV dealers led by Mr. DeVol, the Parkersburg dealer. He says safety problems have less to do with the vehicles than with the people who use them. "My customers tell me that if the law results in a blanket statement that ATVs are prohibited from all paved roads in the state, basically you're making criminals out of them," he says.

Each year, Mr. DeVol's group has succeeded in persuading enough lawmakers to oppose the manufacturers' favored legislation. The group's lobbyist, Sam Love, says he makes a practice of reminding legislators how many of their constituents use ATVs. "When you have 200,000-plus people in the state, this is something legislators need to know before they enact restrictive legislation."

Last year, as the bill moved through the Senate, Mr. Love persuaded lawmakers to add an amendment that would have explicitly opened 20,000 miles of rural roads -- many of them paved -- to ATVs. (Currently, West Virginia law is ambiguous about whether ATVs are legal on paved roads.)

At that point, the manufacturers pulled their support, killing the bill. Mr. Moore, the industry lobbyist, says encouraging ATV users to use more paved roads could raise the state's "body count" and spur federal regulators to take more drastic steps.

Last month, the ATV manufacturers prodded West Virginia legislators with an open letter published in local newspapers demanding that the stalemate finally be broken. Now Democratic Gov. Bob Wise is trying to broker a compromise between the opposing dealer groups that would impose safety education, helmets and a no-passenger rule on children under 18.

As state police and Jessica's family have pieced together her Sept. 30, 2002, accident, the seventh-grade honor student had just finished supper and done her homework. It was around 6 p.m. She went for a walk in "Healthy Heights," the trailer park where she lived. Cynthia Lefever, her mother, says she felt little reason for concern. "She was very health and safety conscious," Ms. Lefever says.

Jessica went down the street to see a fellow seventh-grader, who wasn't home. But his 17-year-old brother rolled out the family ATV, a 2002 Honda Rancher that showroom dealers say is capable of speeds up to 50 mph. A spokesman for American Honda Motor Co. says Jessica's death was a "tragedy" beyond the manufacturer's control. "We try to make vehicles as safe as possible, but it requires supervision of the parents as well," he says.

Ms. Lefever says Jessica had never shown much interest in the machines. But another friend, a 14-year-old girl, jumped on the driver's seat and Jessica climbed on behind.

An hour later, someone heard moaning coming from the nearby woods. It was the 14-year-old, who had been thrown off. She suffered a punctured lung and bruised ribs. Jessica was lying quietly nearby.

Jessica's friends fashioned a tribute of her stuffed toys and favorite candy next to the tree the ATV struck. Mr. Helmkamp, of the state's Center for Rural Emergency Medicine, is preparing a more lasting memorial: a video describing her death that he hopes to distribute among state schools. "This was an event that could have been prevented," he says.

Meanwhile, teenagers in Jessica's neighborhood still get out to joyride. Jessica's mother can hear them revving their ATV engines at night. Sometimes she sees them collecting at a nearby gas station, comparing their shiny machines. "A lot of them are boys," she says. "They think they're invincible."

Write to John J. Fialka at john.fialka@wsj.com
 

JuliusPleaser

Too much of a good thing.
Joined
Nov 22, 2000
Messages
4,392
Likes
0
#2
Same old crap. . .blame the dealers and the manufacturers. :think:
 

gwcrim

Subscriber
Joined
Oct 3, 2002
Messages
1,881
Likes
0
#3
Sure. No one is responsible for their own stupidity. It HAS to be someone elses fault. They're just victims!
 

Kav

Crash Master
Damn Yankees
Joined
Jan 20, 2001
Messages
1,517
Likes
0
#4
The Wall Street Journal said:
The CPSC has the power to impose a ban or order vehicles redesigned if it finds they pose substantial harm, says Hal Stratton, the commission's Republican chairman. But, after months of research and public hearings in West Virginia, New Mexico and Alaska, the agency hasn't found design flaws so much as "behavior problems" in how people ride, he says.
I think that's the most importent thing to remember, and the cause of most accidents :think:
 

Danman

Lifetime Sponsor
Joined
Nov 7, 2000
Messages
2,211
Likes
2
#5
The bottom line is parent responsablity. Parents need to supervise and play an active roll in any riding on an ATV. There are responsable riders out there, but not all of them are. I sure hope the industry and the parents will "self police" before big brother steps in. After the ATV riders are washed over by Big Brother they will more than likely turn the eye to the motorcycle groups.

BTW. I hate how the artilce called ATVs "motorcycle like" its more small car like than motorcycle. Two different things all together.
 
Last edited:

BSWIFT

Sponsoring Member<BR>Club Moderator
N. Texas SP
Joined
Nov 25, 1999
Messages
7,910
Likes
27
#6
Not too surprising. It is all politically motivated. Compromise is not likely due to the extreme views from the "splinter" group. I will continue to argue with anyone that ATV's and motorcycles are as safe as the rider. When confronted several years ago in the ER, I asked a very persistant nurse if she had ever been in a car wreck. She said yes, so, I asked if she still rode/drove in a car? She said yes again. I asked her why and she got mad and left the room. If all logic is thrown out for emotional reasonings, ALL forms of transportation including walking will eventually be prohibited.
 
Joined
Jan 30, 2003
Messages
605
Likes
0
#7
I love these articles! 825,000 units sold and only 357 deaths.
Sounds like freakin epidemic to me :think:
 

fender92883

Mi. Trail Riders
Joined
Aug 26, 2002
Messages
645
Likes
0
#8
I can't stand some of the 'consumer protection' people. If somebody's dumb enough to let a 7-year-old kid ride a 750cc 2-stroke quad without a helmet, how can you possibly blame the manufacturer for the incident? These people need to stop and realize that stupid people do stupid things, whether it's with an ATV, dirtbike, jet ski, scooter, unicycle, fishing rod, toothbrush, cottonball, whatever. Idiots find ways of hurting and killing themselves (and others), no matter how much you try to protect them by regulating the manufacturers. Complete safety can't be built into these things, it has to be taught...and even then you can't completely protect everybody. :|
 
Joined
Mar 18, 2003
Messages
316
Likes
0
#9
fender92883 said:
Complete safety can't be built into these things, it has to be taught...and even then you can't completely protect everybody. :|
Howbout, Seat Belts, Air Bags (front and side), Roll Bars, Crumple Zones, locating beacons and Little black box's?

These are all things that can be legislated, unfortuneately common sense cannot. :ugg:
 

Senior KX Rider

Super Power AssClown
Joined
Nov 9, 1999
Messages
8,577
Likes
0
#10
490Dave said:
Howbout Little black box's?
:
How many beers would fit in those boxes
:laugh: Couldn't resist that :aj:

Thats the mindset of so many people and special interest groups. They know what is better for us than we do. Accidents are part of any motorsport and if you participate you should shoulder the responsibility :think:
 

Jaybird

Apprentice Goon
Joined
Mar 16, 2001
Messages
6,452
Likes
0
Location
Charlestown, IN
#11
So called consumer protection groups are always looking for statistics to use and manipulate to further their agenda. What about the statistic that would show how many of these injuries involved people NOT adhering to mfg's recommendations of safe off-roading?
How many didn't have a helmet on? How many were riding as a passenger on a one person vehicle?
Funny, the only mention I saw in the articel referencing helmets was about the Honda commercial showing a responsible family that shows the riders wearing helmets and the family supervising.
Where are the stats that show how many ATV injuries occured to family supervised, safety gear wearing, kids?
 

KXTodd

Subscriber
Joined
Nov 25, 2000
Messages
463
Likes
0
#12
"What stands out is the stupidity of some of these accidents," he says.

I thought it was pretty fairly written and shows what the real problem is by the above quote :laugh:
The author could have easlily slanted this story any way he wanted and seemed to do a good job stating facts(although a few more Stat #'s would have been nice)
The bubba quote was a good addition too!
 
Joined
Mar 18, 2003
Messages
316
Likes
0
#14
That was a little harsh there Junkman, lets not confuse stupidity with ignorance, granted there are those who for what ever reason seem to go out of their way to maime and injure their selves and others, however the little girls on daddy's quad probably had no such intention. Education is key to keeping the injuries down, let Darwin take care of the rest......
 
Joined
Jan 8, 2004
Messages
70
Likes
0
#15
Older Riders: Remember when?

So sorry to hear about that crash! What about the days before the ATV's were around? I love riding and ATV's in the wrong hands cause many problems due to the operators! Just look at all the ruts they leave behind for dirt bike riders to get all wadded up in!
ATV's are here to stay! The holes will continue to get larger and who will maintain private property? As far a property damage I feel that the tread lightly slogan just won't work with those 4 tires sliding across the dirt! Look around at the places you ride at and think back 20 years, see a difference? Now us Dirt Bike riders have ditches on our trails and hills to contend with. Riding dirt bikes require much more skill than ATV's and I know many ATV Riders who would never cut the mustard on 2 wheels. Like my riding buddy says..."Quads are for people who don't know how to ride Dirt Bikes"! I lost most of the riding buds to quads and most of them never ride with me anymore. ATV's just can't do things that dirt bikes can. There is about 400 acres behind my house and it is hard to ride the trails the way I did before these 4 wheeled earthpans came around! My 2 cents on Quads.
I fork money out of my own pocket to rent equipment to attempt repairs on the land but when the rains come so do the ruts! I HATE QUADS! I own one and I use it strictly for property maintenance only. Everyone wants to ride but nobody wants to help maintain our riding area. So remember what it was like riding 20 years ago? I still ride at a place in S. Ohio that no quad would dear to go! True single track trails!