Bluewater Network * Consumer Federation of America * National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses * Natural Trails and Waters Coalition

ATVs Can Make Holidays Less Than Happy for Children and Families

Consumer Product Safety Commission Drags Feet on 2003 ATV Injury Data and Safety Petition

December 21, 2004
Rachel Weintraub,
Consumer Federation, (202) 939-1012
Scott Kovarovics, Natural Trails and Waters Coalition, (202) 429-2696

Washington, DC - Parents, doctors and nurses, and consumer advocates have joined together this holiday season to warn Americans that all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are not toys, but highly dangerous motor vehicles that pose serious and growing threats to children. They also called on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to stop dragging its feet and release ATV injury and death information for 2003 and act favorably on a safety petition filed more than two years ago.

ATVs, particularly those made for adults, are an increasingly serious threat to children under age 16. Many ATVs can travel 50 miles per hour or faster, weigh hundreds of pounds, and tend to be unstable and complicated to safely operate. While ATVs are dangerous for all riders, children too young to drive cars in most states are especially at risk of serious injury and death, according to the most recent data available from CPSC:

  • Children under 16 suffered 37,100 injuries requiring emergency room treatment 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.
  • Based on CPSC data, more than 95 percent of children under 16 are injured by adult-size ATVs.

Data from 2002 is the latest available because CPSC has delayed releasing its annual report on ATV-related injuries and fatalities for 2003. As serious injuries mount and parents seek up-to-date information on which to make potentially life and death decisions, CPSC continues to drag its feet on this critical job.

"ATVs that can travel at least 55 miles per hour with no airbags and no seat belts are not toys, especially for kids under 16 with no driving experience. For my son, an ATV was a lethal weapon. It killed him. He won't be home for the holidays, or ever again," said Carolyn Anderson of Brockton, Massachusetts whose 14 year-old son, James, was killed in an ATV crash on August 8, 2004 while vacationing with a friend's family.

"As nurses, we see young, injured children admitted to the hospital often stating that they were 'playing' in a field on their ATV," said Linda Altizer, a registered nurse in western Maryland and member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses. "ATVs are not toys. Parents and children need to understand that concept and realize the irreversible damage that can be done."

The problem extends beyond failing to release important safety information in a timely fashion. When the Washington Post asked Chairman Hal Stratton about what the Commission plans to do to address the ATV problem, he explained that "he was waiting for someone to tell him what to do." ("Critics Doubt Safety Chief's Priorities: Agency Chairman Called Soft on Manufacturers," October 30, 2004, p. E1 and E2)

In August 2002, Consumer Federation of America and eight other medical, consumer, conservation and safety groups submitted a petition to CPSC requesting that it initiate rulemaking to develop and issue national safety standards that would bar the sale of adult-size ATVs (defined by industry and CPSC as vehicles with engines larger than 90 cc) for use by children under 16. Although the Commission held field hearings in West Virginia, Alaska and New Mexico in 2003, it has failed to move aggressively to address this problem or respond to the petition in a substantial way.

"This is crazy. Is CPSC so blind that it can't see the rising numbers of deaths and injuries? How many children need to die before the CPSC notices and takes action," asked Sue and Tom Rabe of Turner, Oregon whose 10 year-old son, Kyle, was killed in May 2002 when the ATV he was riding rolled over on top of him.

"For more than two years, doctors, nurses, safety experts and parents have been telling the Commission that the best action to take to protect children from ATV deaths and injuries is for CPSC to ban the sale of adult-size ATVs for use for children," said Rachel Weintraub, Assistant General Counsel at the Consumer Federation of America. "While the Chairman waits, children and all consumers are suffering due to CPSC's inaction."

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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 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.