Consumer Product Agency Holds Hearing About National ATV Safety Standard

Graco Fine Highlights Failure to Lead on ATVs as Time Runs Out

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 22, 2005
CONTACT:
Rachel Weintraub,
Consumer Federation of AmericaB (202) 939-1012
Scott Kovarovics,
Natural Trails and Waters Coalition,
(202) 429-2696

Washington, DC - The full U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) met today to receive a briefing from its staff, which is recommending against developing a national safety standard that would bar the sale of adult-size all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) for use by children under age 16. Consumer advocates, doctors and others challenged staff's analysis and recommendation and urged the Commission to begin developing a national standard. Many segments of the ATV industry were present and urged CPSC not to act.

"On the same day that CPSC announced a record fine against Graco and stated that it is at the 'forefront of protecting children,' CPSC took no concrete action to protect children from the serious threat of death and injury caused by ATVs," stated Rachel Weintraub, Assistant General Counsel at Consumer Federation of America. "ATVs continue to pose a growing public health risk in the United States which compels strong action by CPSC and state governments. CPSC did not give any indication today when, or even if, it will aggressively act to prevent future deaths and injuries," she continued.

In testimony today, Mary Aitken, MD, representing the 60,000 members of the American Academy of Pediatrics, cited a national safety standard as a fundamental component of a more comprehensive approach to this serious public health problem. She said: "[T]he present state of affairs is entirely ineffective in keeping children safe. While a sales ban would not solve this problem in its entirety, it is a necessary part of a multi-pronged approach to reduce the injuries and deaths associated with these products. Even if a sales ban on its own only prevents a relatively small proportion of ATV-related child deaths and injuries, I hope you will agree that it is a crucial step in protecting our nation's children."

In announcing a record fine today against Graco Children's Products Inc., Commission Chairman Hal Stratton said, "CPSC is at the forefront of protecting children from products that can cause serious injuries." Consumer Federation of America applauds CPSC for taking strong action to hold Graco accountable for failing to comply with CPSC regulations. However, CPSC gave no indication today of what action it might take to stop the rising tide of ATV injuries and deaths or when it will act. The window of opportunity is closing fast. Under CPSC statute, the Commission can only conduct official business, including voting to develop safety regulations, for up to six months after it has less than a full compliment of three commissioners. That period expires on April 1 based on the departure of Commissioner Mary Shelia Gall last September. Although a new commissioner was nominated by the President about two weeks ago, it is unclear when the Senate will hold a confirmation hearing, if the nominee will be confirmed or when she would be sworn in. As a result of the Commission's inaction today, it appears that parents, children, doctors and others will have no choice but to wait weeks or months for CPSC to consider the issue again.

The CPSC staff's presentation was based on a 200-plus page briefing package. In that document, staff concludes that developing a national safety standard would provide "substantial" benefits and reduce the risk of serious injury and death by half if children rode youth rather than adult-size ATVs. Staff estimates that serious injuries and deaths suffered by children under 16 cost society approximately $2.5 billion annually. CPSC staff further estimates that a national safety standard could cut injury and fatality costs by at least $1 billion annually.

In addition, the briefing package highlights how dealer compliance with age recommendations dropped significantly after the ATV industry assumed a voluntary approach to safety in 1998. The report states: "During the period covered by the consent decrees, roughly 90 percent of dealers were in compliance with the age recommendations. Compliance with the recommendations appears to have declined in recent years; in 1998, compliance was 85 percent, and in the years 2002 and 2003, 60 percent. However, for 2004, the compliance was 70 percent. The declining dealer compliance with age recommendations from 1998 to 2004 may be related to reduced stringency of the ATV Voluntary Action Plans, relative to the legally binding consent decrees."

"Yet again, the evidence proves that the ATV industry's voluntary approach to safety is failing, and has been for years," said Scott Kovarovics, Director of the Natural Trails and Waters Coalition. "This industry no longer deserves the benefit of the doubt that the Commission has continued to extend even in light of widespread noncompliance and record-breaking numbers of injuries and deaths. It is long-past time for CPSC to lead a new, national response this problem."

In spite of these findings, the staff recommends against a national standard by concentrating almost exclusively on monetary and other costs they believe are associated with such standard. Many of the "costs" cited by staff pale in comparison to the benefits of saving lives and reducing serious injuries. Moreover, while lengthy, the briefing package is devoid of in-depth cost-benefit analysis that demonstrates how those costs significantly outweigh the benefits of protecting some children from adult ATVs.

View complete testimony at the following web sites:

www.consumerfed.org
www.naturaltrails.org
www.aap.org