Consumer and Conservation Groups Join Doctors in Urging the Consumer Product Safety Commission to Take a New Approach to ATV Safety at Hearing in New Mexico

2002 is Record-Breaking Year for ATV Injuries and Deaths

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contacts:
Rachel Weintraub, (202) 939-1012
Scott Kovarovics (NTWC), (202) 429-2696 October 28, 2003

Washington, DC - The Chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) held a field hearing today on all-terrain vehicle (ATV) safety one week after the Commission released a report estimating ATVs caused 113,900 injuries requiring emergency room treatment in 2002 - breaking a record set in 2001. This increase in injuries continues a trend dating to 1993. The CPSC also estimates that ATV-related deaths were the highest ever, rising from 569 in 2000 to a minimum of 634 in 2001.

"While the ATV industry cranks up its spin machine, serious injuries and deaths caused by ATVs continue to break records," said Scott Kovarovics, Director of the Natural Trails and Waters Coalition, who testified at the hearing in New Mexico. "The fact is, these new records continue a tragic upward spiral dating to the mid-1990s. It is time for a new approach to ATV safety led by CPSC and states."

This new data follows the release of a report in August by Consumer Federation of America, Natural Trails and Waters Coalition, Bluewater Network and doctors documenting how the ATV industry's voluntary approach to safety is failing to reduce serious injuries or protect children under 16 from the dangers posed by adult-size ATVs. This report - ATV Safety Crisis: America's Children STILL At Risk - also describes and challenges the industry's proposal - floated in June - to abolish age recommendations and put some children on bigger, faster ATVs made specifically for adults. (View report at www.consumerfed.org, www.naturaltrails.org, or www.bluewaternetwork.org)

Major findings of CPSC's 2002 Annual Report on All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV)-Related Deaths and Injuries include:

  • Serious injuries requiring emergency room treatment increased from 110,100 in 2001 to 113,900 in 2002.
  • The estimated number of ATV-related fatalities increased 11 percent from 569 in 2000 to 634 in 2001.
  • Children under 16 suffered 37,100 injuries in 2002 up from 34,300 in 2001. This age group received more serious injuries than any other.
  • Between 1985 and 2002, children under 16 accounted for 37 percent of all injuries and 33 percent of all deaths.
  • The CPSC continues to make clear that the increase in injuries is not explained by rising ATV sales.


A copy of the full CPSC report is available at www.consumerfed.org.

At the hearing today, consumer advocates, conservation groups and physicians called on CPSC to issue a national safety standard barring the sale of adult-size ATVs for use for children under 16 and state legislatures to set minimum age limits and require training and appropriate safety gear for all ATV riders.

"Last year more children than ever were needlessly injured and killed on ATVs due to industry self-regulation," stated Ray Prushnok, consumer advocate for the New Mexico Public Interest Research Group. "We commend Chairman Stratton for holding these hearings and we encourage the CPSC and state governments to take immediate action, first banning adult-size ATVs for children's use."

"A national safety standard would provide a minimum level of protection for every child, give CPSC a strong enforcement tool to hold ATV dealers accountable, and send a powerful message to parents about how dangerous adult-size ATVs are for children under 16," stated Rachel Weintraub, assistant general counsel at Consumer Federation of America.

"Every year more than 100,000 adults and children are killed or hurt on ATVs, or roughly the number of people in a small city," said Sean Smith, Bluewater Network public lands director. "What will it take to get the CPSC to take strong action on this matter -- yearly ATV injury rates that surpass city populations?"

The CPSC's findings in 2002 mirror trends over a longer period of time. Earlier this year, CPSC issued the latest in a long line of studies documenting the dramatic increase in ATV injuries and deaths. In assessing trends between 1997 and 2001, the Commission provides compelling evidence that the industry is failing to protect consumers. CPSC concludes:

  • ATV-related injuries requiring emergency room treatment increased 108 percent from 52,800 to 110,100 while the number of ATVs in use increased by less than 40 percent;

 

  • Injuries suffered by children under 16 increased 66 percent to more than 34,000 in 2001. The proportion of these children among the driving population grew by 13 percent; and

 

  • Injuries caused by bigger and more powerful ATVs, defined by the Commission as machines with engines bigger than 400 cc, shot up 567 percent from 3,662 to 24,437 while the number of these machines grew by less than half as much.


While this evidence is compelling, the Consumer Federation and Natural Trails performed additional analysis of data from 2001 - not previously released by the Commission - which cements the conclusion that the industry's approach to safety is ineffective. For example:

  • Less than four percent of injured ATV drivers received formal safety training from a dealer, salesperson or organized training program. This proportion is unchanged since 1997;

 

  • More than 40 percent of drivers injured in 2001 stated that their ATV did not have warning labels or they did not know if it did at the time of their accident; and

 

  • Nearly 90 percent of children under 16 were injured while riding adult-size ATVs in spite of the industry's voluntary policy not to sell these machines for use by children. This proportion is also unchanged since 1997.


As the Chairman receives testimony in New Mexico, the Commission has a petition pending from Consumer Federation, American Academy of Pediatrics and other medical and conservation groups formally requesting that it issue a rule prohibiting the sale of adult-size ATVs for use by children under 16. That petition was submitted in August 2002.

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

The 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.