ATV Accidents Continue to Take Tragic TollFeb 14, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV) killed more than 500 people in 2006 and of those victims nearly 1 on in 5 was a child. In addition to ATV deaths, accidents involving such popular vehicles as the Yamaha Rhino ATV sent 146,600 people to hospital emergency rooms that same year. These statistics, from data on ATV accidents collected by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), point to the continuing dangers posed by these defective vehicles.
The CPSC’s ATV data are not surprising. ATVs are infamous for causing serious accidents - especially rollover accidents. Such vehicles are three or four wheeled and are used for “off-roading” or riding in natural conditions. Many ATVs can go as fast as 55 MPH and can weigh as heavy as a quarter of a ton. Some 75% of the ATV accidents result in serious damage to the head or spinal cord of the accident victim. Head injuries are a major cause of serious life threatening or lifelong physical problems and ailments. Injury to the spinal cord can result in paralysis of the entire body for life.
One of the most dangerous ATVs on the market is the Yamaha Rhino ATV. Critics say the Yamaha Rhino is top heavy, and it has tires that are extremely narrow. These design defects make it far more likely that the Yamaha Rhino will tip and rollover while going through a turn, even when the vehicle is traveling at a slow speed and is on a flat surface. Furthermore, the Yamaha Rhino is designed in such a way that passengers’ legs are unprotected in the event of a rollover accident. Victims of Yamaha Rhino rollover accidents usually experience broken or crushed legs, ankles or feet. In some cases, victims have been permanently disabled, and have had limbs amputated following a Yamaha Rhino rollover accident. When Yamaha Rhino rollover accidents involve children, the results are often fatal.
In 2007, Yamaha offered free modifications to the owners of new and used Rhinos. These modifications included the addition of doors to the ATV, as well as additional handholds. However, the company still has not recalled or offered refunds to the owners of the dangerous Rhino ATVs. It is not yet known if the modifications to the Yamaha Rhino ATVs will in fact make the vehicles safer.
In its annual report being released Thursday, the CPSC said Pennsylvania has had the highest number of reported ATV deaths since 1982, followed by California, West Virginia, Texas and Kentucky. Every state had at least one death attributed to ATVs. And the CPSC expects the ATV accident problem to only get worse. The agency is still gathering data as far back as 2003. The report updates CPSC data with numbers from 2006, the latest year that agency staff have analyzed. In 2005, there were 666 confirmed deaths related to ATVs, and CPSC estimates that the toll for that year could reach 870.
Most of the deaths and injuries to children are the result of youngsters riding adult-size ATVs, and consumer groups say the agency needs to do more to keep kids off ATVs that are too big and too powerful for them. Consumer advocates have called on the CPSC to ban the sale of adult-size ATVs for use for children. The agency has declined to do that. There is only a voluntary agreement in place with major ATV distributors in which they require dealers not to sell adult-size ATVs to people who might allow children to ride them. Consumer groups say few dealers abide by the rule.