Doctors Nationwide Call on CPSC to Act on ATV Safety Petition Commission Will Hold Critical Meeting Next Week

March 16, 2005
Jack Gillis, CFA
(202) 737-0766
Scott Kovarovics, NTWC
(202) 429-2696

Washington, DC - More than 140 pediatricians, nurses, surgeons and other medical professionals from across the country wrote to U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Chairman Hal Stratton today urging him to develop a national safety standard that would help to protect children under age 16 from dangerous adult-size all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). Last month, CPSC staff recommended against developing this standard. The Commission will meet on March 22 to receive a staff briefing on this issue, and it could vote then to accept or reject that recommendation.

"Like a virus, ATVs are causing an epidemic of death and disability across our nation, especially among children younger than 16 years. The CPSC has the opportunity and obligation to reign-in this modern plague," said Dr. Gary A. Smith, MD, DrPH, Director, Center for Injury Research and Policy, Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. "If this were West Nile Virus, there would be no hesitation to act swiftly and decisively. As health professionals who treat children with ATV-related injuries and know first-hand the human damage that ATVs cause, we call on the CPSC to fulfill its mandate to protect our vulnerable youth."

"If the Commission votes against a national standard, it will abdicate its responsibility to protect children from unreasonable risk of serious injury and death," said Rachel Weintraub, Assistant General Counsel at Consumer Federation of America.

In early February, CPSC released the staff's recommendation as part of a 200-plus page briefing package. Specifically, the staff recommends that the Commission deny a petition submitted in August 2002 by Consumer Federation of America, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Emergency Physicians, and six other national medical, conservation and consumer groups requesting that CPSC develop a federal regulation barring the sale of adult-size ATVs for use by children under age 16. Staff offers this recommendation while also concluding that a national standard barring the sale of adult-size ATVs for use by children under would have "substantial benefits" and "[G]etting children to drive youth models rather than more powerful adult models could reduce the injury risk by half."(emphasis added) Based on staff's analysis, cutting serious injuries and deaths could save more than $1 billion annually in medical and economic costs and pain and suffering.

In their letter, medical professionals from 32 states challenge CPSC's conclusions and its failure to consider new approaches to the growing problem:

"We are concerned that the staff's recommendation overall deemphasizes the significant public health and monetary benefits that could be achieved with a national standard, including the fact that moving children from adult-size ATVs to youth models could cut the risk of serious injury and death in half. Instead, staff focus on costs that can not be quantified and appear relatively minor when compared to the benefits associated with reducing serious injuries and fatalities. Furthermore, we question how the staff can effectively propose to continue to rely on industry's approach to safety when the Commission has documented significant dealer noncompliance with manufacturers' voluntary agreement not to recommend the sale of adult-size ATVs for use by children."

When the full Commission meets next week, it could formally vote on staff's recommendation. It has three options: accept the recommendation; reject it and initiate the rulemaking process to develop a national standard; or defer action until a later date. Based on past experience, the Commission rarely rejects staff's recommendations.

"Children under 16 represent the largest age category for ATV-related injury. A painful lesson learned from the rising childhood injury and death statistics is that these vehicles are serious machines - not toys," said Dr. John Hafner, MD, an emergency doctor and Professor of Surgery in Peoria, Illinois. "Properly controlling an ATV requires physical skill, manual dexterity and split-second decision making - abilities that children under 16 have not yet fully developed. It seems unthinkable to let an 11-year-old drive a truck off-road at 40 mph, yet that same child can drive an ATV at similar speeds, often without a helmet or safety training."

A copy of the letter is attached. The Commission will meet on March 22 at 10 AM in Room 420 of the Bethesda Towers Building, 4330 East-West Highway, Bethesda, Maryland.