Don’t Put an ATV on Your List this Holiday Season -- ATV Dealers Fail to Warn Parents of Potential Dangers

December 4, 2002
Rachel Weintraub, Consumer Federation of America, (202) 939-1012
Scott Kovarovics, Natural Trails and Waters Coalition, (202) 429-2696
Alix Rauschman, Natural Trails and Waters Coalition, (202) 429-2672

Washington, DC - As holiday shopping begins in earnest, consumer advocates, conservation groups and others urge parents to leave all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) off their holiday shopping lists. A comprehensive report issued earlier this year documents how children under 16 years old suffer a disproportionate share of ATV-related injuries and deaths.

"ATVs are not toys - they are highly dangerous vehicles that injure and kill an alarming number of children every year," said Scott Kovarovics, Director of the Natural Trails and Waters Coalition. "We hope that ATVs won't make it on to Santa's sleigh this season."

"ATVs have caused a hidden epidemic in our country," said Rachel Weintraub, Assistant General Counsel at Consumer Federation of America. "Sadly, too many parents unwittingly give their child an adult-size ATV without full knowledge of the deaths and injuries they cause."

While the off-road vehicle industry takes every opportunity to state that it does not sell adult-size ATVs for use by children under 16, a recent investigation demonstrates that this policy is violated almost without exception. A November 8, 2002, Good Morning America report about ATV safety included a hidden camera investigation designed to determine whether or not ATV dealers abide by this "golden rule." Good Morning America staff visited or telephoned ten randomly selected dealers nationwide and asked salespeople to recommend an ATV for a 14-year-old child. Nine of the ten recommended an adult-size ATV with the full knowledge that it was being purchased for a child younger than 16. Most dealers made this recommendation without any caveats, while one explained the age restrictions, and then proceeded to tell the producer how to evade them.

Susan and Tom Rabe of Turner, Oregon were not given the right information by their ATV dealer. The Rabes lost their 10-year-old son Kyle earlier this year when the ATV he was riding overturned at low speed on a gentle slope. The dealer sold them an adult-size machine with full knowledge that Kyle would ride it and did little to warn the Rabes about the dangers of ATVs.

"This will be our first Christmas without Kyle," said Mrs. Rabe. "If the ATV industry's approach to safety actually worked, Kyle would be here today because he would never have been on that ATV. As a mother, I urge every parent to scratch these deadly machines off any holiday list."

Despite the fact that many dealers are doing the wrong thing when it comes to children, over the past several months, however, some ATV dealers and law enforcement officers have spoken out about the dangers these vehicles pose to children. One clear message emerges - ATVs are not toys. For example, a dealer near South Bend Indiana stated: "They [riders] don't comprehend what hitting a tree is…. Don't take (an ATV) as a toy." (South Bend Tribune, "Not to be toyed with, ATV accident rate highest for young people," 9/8/02) An officer with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks explained: "ATVs are not toys. And a lot of these ATVs are not designed for children to ride. They are too powerful for them to handle." (The Clarion-Ledger, "Improper use can turn ATVs into death traps," 10/9/02)

In August 2002, the Consumer Federation of America, Natural Trails and Waters Coalition and Bluewater Network joined together with doctors to release a comprehensive report documenting a growing ATV safety problem. The report - All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) Safety Crisis: America's Children At Risk - highlights how children under 16 suffer a disproportionate share of ATV-related injuries and deaths. Using data compiled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the report finds:

  • Between 1982 and 2001, 1,714 children under the age of 16 - or 38 percent of the total number of fatalities - were killed while riding ATVs. Of those, 799 were children under age 12.
  • Between 1993 and 2001, ATV-related injuries suffered by children under 16 increased 94 percent to 34,800.
  • While children account for approximately 14 percent of all ATV riders, they suffered 37 percent of all injuries and 38 percent of total fatalities between 1985 and 2001.
  • Between 1993 and 2001, the total number of injuries caused by ATVs more than doubled to 111,700.

In addition to releasing a report documenting the tragic impact of adult-size ATVs on children, nine medical, consumer and conservation groups also filed a petition with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission urging CPSC to ban the sale of adult-size four-wheel ATVs for use by children under 16 years old. CPSC has docketed the petition and is accepting comments from the public about the petition until December 17, 2002. The petition was submitted by: Consumer Federation of America, Bluewater Network, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Emergency Physicians, National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses, Center for Injury Research and Policy, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Kids in Danger and the Danny Foundation.

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.

The Natural Trails and Waters Coalition includes conservation, recreation, hunting and other groups working to protect and restore all public lands and waters from the severe damage caused by snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, dirt bikes, jet skis and all other off-road vehicles.

View a copy of the full report at: or