2003 Is Another Record-Breaking Year for Serious ATV Injuries and Deaths

Bluewater Network * Consumer Federation of America * Natural Trails and Waters Coalition
Federal Consumer Watchdog Agency Failing to Respond to Crisis or Demonstrate National Leadership

January 27, 2005
Scott Kovarovics (NTWC)
(202) 429-2696
Rachel Weintraub (CFA)
(202) 939-1012
Sean Smith, (BWN)
(415) 544-0790 x. 19

Washington, DC - A report released yesterday by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) caused 125,500 injuries requiring emergency room treatment in 2003 - representing the second consecutive record-breaking year. The CPSC also estimates that ATV-related deaths were the highest ever, rising to a minimum of 621 in 2002. Children under age 16 continued to suffer more injuries than any other age group.

"The continuous increase in deaths and injuries caused by ATVs has created a public health crisis in the United States which demands a serious and aggressive solution by CPSC and state governments," said Rachel Weintraub, Assistant General Counsel of Consumer Federation of America. "At a minimum, CPSC must take strong steps to ensure that children are not riding adult-size ATVs."

"The number of children treated for ATV-related injuries at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh has more than tripled since 1998," said Jeffrey Upperman, MD, a surgeon at Children's. "Young children don't have the cognitive skills, size or strength to safely drive these vehicles, and often their injuries are more severe because they're not wearing proper safety equipment, such as a helmet. Tragically, these injuries can be so severe that we have seen several children killed in recent years."

Major findings of the CPSC 2003 Annual Report on All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV)-Related Deaths and Injuries include:

  • Serious injuries requiring emergency room treatment increased 10 percent from 113,900 in 2002 to 125,500 in 2003.
  • The estimated number of ATV-related fatalities increased from 609 in 2001 to 621 in 2002 - another gruesome record.
  • In 2003, ATVs killed at least 111 children younger than 16 accounting for 27 percent of all fatalities.
  • Children under 16 suffered 38,600 serious injuries in 2003 - or 31 percent of all injuries. This age group received more serious injuries than any other.
  • Between 1985 and 2003, children under 16 accounted for 37 percent of all injuries.

The release of the 2003 injury data has been delayed by CPSC for months. Historically, these reports were issued in the late spring or early summer of the following year. However, 2002 data was not released until late October 2003 and CPSC did not release any national data in 2004. The problem extends beyond failing to provide important safety information in a timely fashion. When the Washington Post asked Chairman Hal Stratton about what the Commission plans to do to address the ATV problem, he explained that "he was waiting for someone to tell him what to do." ("Critics Doubt Safety Chief's Priorities: Agency Chairman Called Soft on Manufacturers," October 30, 2004, p. E1 and E2)

"As serious injuries mount and parents seek up-to-date information to make potentially life and death decisions, CPSC can not even do something as simple as release basic safety facts on time," said Scott Kovarovics, Director of the Natural Trails and Waters Coalition. "If Chairman Stratton wants advice about what to do, he and CPSC can start leading a national response to this crisis today."

The 2003 CPSC report comes nearly two and one half years after a coalition of medical, consumer and conservation groups, including Consumer Federation of America, American Academy of Pediatrics, Bluewater Network, and National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses, formally petitioned CPSC to issue a federal rule that would bar the sale of adult-size ATVs (defined by industry and CPSC as vehicles with engines larger than 90 cc) for use by children under age 16. Although the Commission held field hearings in West Virginia, Alaska and New Mexico in 2003, it has failed to move aggressively to address this problem or to respond to the petition in a substantial way.

"The CPSC's latest ATV safety numbers once again provide stark evidence of the mounting carnage, as well as industry's continued failure to stem the tragedy. How many more will have to suffer before CPSC takes action?" said Sean Smith, Public Lands Director at Bluewater Network.

Consumer Federation of America is a non-profit association of 300 consumer groups, with a combined membership of more than 50 million people. CFA was founded in 1968 to advance the consumers' interest through advocacy and education. www.consumerfed.org

Natural Trails and Waters Coalition includes more than 100 conservation, recreation and other groups working to protect and restore all public lands and waters from the damage caused by snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, dirt bikes, jet skis and all other off-road vehicles. www.naturaltrails.org

Bluewater Network is a national organization aggressively confronting the root causes of climate change and fighting environmental damage from the shipping, oil, and motorized recreation industries. www.bluewaternetwork.org