U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Must Act Now to Protect Millions of Consumers

For immediate release
Rachel Weintraub, Consumer Federation of America, 202-939-1012
Scott Kovarovics, Natural Trails and Waters Coalition, 202-429-2696 / 202-320-9171 (cell)
Alix Rauschman, Natural Trails and Waters Coalition, 202-429-2672
Jack Gillis, Consumer Federation of America, 202-737-0766

June 5, 2003

Morgantown, WV - Today, in response to the rising tide of injuries and deaths related to all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is holding a field hearing to gather additional input on this growing public health epidemic. Consumer advocates, doctors, and conservation groups are urging the Commission to take proactive steps to better protect consumers - particularly children. They are also calling on CPSC to break the ATV industry's grip on critical safety information that is being withheld from the public.

"The history of ATVs in the United States proves that the current approach - the industry's self-regulating approach - to safety is not working," stated Rachel Weintraub, Assistant General Counsel at Consumer Federation of America. "CPSC's own data illustrates that CPSC and the states must act now to end this hidden epidemic by moving aggressively to protect young children from the dangers posed by adult-size ATVs," she continued.

Industry's Voluntary Approach to Safety is Failing:

The ATV industry assumed a voluntary approach to safety in 1998. This approach relies almost exclusively on recommendations not to sell large ATVs for use by children, warning labels and tiny print in advertisements to communicate critical safety information, and optional safety training for purchasers of new ATVs.

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 since the voluntary approach began (1997 through 2001), the Commission provides compelling evidence that it is failing to protect consumers. CPSC concludes:

  • ATV-related injuries requiring emergency room treatment increased 104 percent from 54,700 to 111,700;
  • Injuries suffered by children under 16 increased 56 percent to more than 33,000 in 2001;
  • 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; and
  • The ATV industry's contention that rising injuries can be explained by the significant growth in the number of ATVs, hours driven, and drivers is not supported by the evidence.

While these findings speak for themselves, the Consumer Federation and Natural Trails performed additional analysis of data from 2001 - not previously released by the Commission - which cements the conclusion that core elements of the industry's voluntary approach are 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 the 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.

Doctors See Emergency Room Cases Daily and Call for Action:

Pediatricians, surgeons, and nurses on the front lines in emergency rooms and local offices are sounding the alarm and calling on the Commission to act to better protect children from the threats posed by ATVs.

"Since 1998, the number of children who have been injured in ATV accidents has more than tripled. Not only have the numbers increased, but the injuries are more severe and often result in death," said Dr. Jeffrey Upperman MD, Pediatric Trauma Surgeon at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. "Pennsylvania ranks third in the nation for ATV-related deaths among children under the age of 16. This rapidly increasing trend is leaving many children without a future," he concluded.

"As ATV-related injuries and deaths continue to rise disproportionately in children under 16 years of age, we are approaching the same crisis situation we found ourselves in 1988 with three-wheelers. It is our responsibility as parents, physicians, and ATV dealers and manufacturers to ensure the safety of our children," said Dr. Rebeccah Brown MD, Assistant Director of Trauma Services at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. "We should support the recommendations set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons that children under 16 years of age not ride 'adult-sized' ATVs under any circumstance and ban the sale of 'adult-size' ATVs for use by children under 16."

ATV Industry is Withholding Critical Safety Information:

The growing number of serious injuries and deaths caused by ATVs is alarming and proves that the industry's voluntary approach to safety is failing to protect consumers. However, this is only half of the picture. The large population of ATV drivers, which the Commission conservatively estimates totaled more than 16 million in 2001, is at risk of serious injury or death. Unfortunately, the Commission, as a condition of receiving this important information from the ATV industry, can not release the data to the public. The industry appears not to want the public to know how many riders don't know if their ATV has warning labels or the reasons that more than 90 percent of all riders do not receive safety training from a dealer or organized program.

"As the Commission meets today to examine the explosive growth of injuries and deaths caused by ATVs, the ATV industry is withholding critical information about its voluntary approach to safety," said Scott Kovarovics, Director of the Natural Trails and Waters Coalition. "This information is key to understanding how many more riders may end up in the emergency room or the morgue following an ATV crash."

Commission analysis, on-going medical research, and other evidence prove that the ATV industry's voluntary approach to safety is failing and must be replaced with a proactive safety initiative implemented by CPSC. Consumer advocates, doctors, and conservation groups are urging the Commission to prohibit the sale of large ATVs for use by children under age 16. As part of a multi-tiered response involving states, parents and industry, the Commission should act immediately to better protect children from this persistent public health problem.

For additional background information, please visit: http://www.naturaltrails.org/issues/ATVSafety/index.html and http://www.consumerfed.org/