ATV Accidents Expected to Take a Toll This SummerJun 12, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
Summer is primetime for ATV (All Terrain Vehicle) accidents, and there is no reason to think that Summer 2008 will be any different. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), ATV accidents are a growing problem.
A CPSC report released earlier this year said that ATVs 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 ATVs sent 146,600 people to hospital emergency rooms that same year. The CPSC report 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.
Even though they are used for recreation, ATVs are not toys. 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.
There are two ways that ATV accidents can result in injury. One is from a fall from the vehicle. The second opportunity for injury occurs when an ATV rolls over, and lands on riders and passengers. ATVs have a high center of gravity and can roll over easily. When the ATV lands on a victim, it can cause crushing injuries and even death.
Some critics of ATVs contend that some of these vehicles are designed in such a way that makes rollover accidents far more likely. The Yamaha Rhino ATV, which has been involved in hundreds of serious accidents, falls into this category. 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.
Despite their obvious dangers, ATVs are still extremely popular. There are some steps riders can take to make their ATV experience safer. The most important is to wear a helmet, which can do a lot to prevent head injuries. Children under 3 should never be allowed on an ATV, and no child of any age should operate one. Safety experts also say riders would do best to use their ATVs on trails specifically designed for the vehicles.