National News

1 in 5 Killed in ATV Wrecks Are Children

Posted February 14, 2008

— At least 555 people, including more than 100 children, died in all-terrain vehicle accidents in 2006. Government safety officials expect the number to go much higher as they receive information from coroners and hospitals nationwide.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated that an additional 146,600 people were treated in emergency rooms for ATV-related injuries – more than a quarter of them children.

Consumer groups and parents have complained for years about the safety of ATVs, especially when children ride adult-size vehicles.

The industry contends that it's not the vehicle but the driver that's the problem.

"ATVs have never been shown to be an unsafe product, but there have been bad decisions made by people sitting on the seat," said Mike Mount, a spokesman for the California-based Specialty Vehicle Institute of America.

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.

"The signs are pointing to a very dangerous trend into more than 800 deaths per year," said CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson. 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.

North Carolina reported 100 ATV-related deaths since 2003 and 297 since records began being kept in 1982. The state ranks eighth nationally in the number of ATV fatalities.

In 2005, there were 666 confirmed deaths related to ATVs, and CPSC estimates that the toll for that year could reach 870.

While overall injuries have risen steadily since 1997, injuries to children were down from 44,700 in 2004 to 39,300 in 2006.

"I don't know that you can find a trend from this data. The bottom line is that more people, and almost as many children, are getting injured seriously by ATVs," said Rachel Weintraub, director of product safety and senior counsel at the Consumer Federation of America. "This data further documents that we have a real problem."

The industry declined to comment on the report until it had a chance to review it.

Also Thursday, the agency was announcing the recall of about 95,000 Polaris ATVs because they can have defective control panels that could catch fire. The Minnesota-based company has received 372 reports of smoking and or melting control panels since June 2005, when 45,000 of the ATVs were recalled. There have been another 20 reports of fires. No injuries have been reported.

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.

Weintraub wants the CPSC ban the sale of adult-size ATVs for use for children. The agency has declined to do that.

Under a voluntary agreement between the industry and the commission, major ATV distributors 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.

For almost two years now, the commission has been considering regulations that would lift restrictions on the engine size of youth ATVs, allowing manufacturers to make bigger vehicles to accommodate today's larger youngsters. The aim, the CPSC says, is to keep teens off adult-size ATVs. At the same time, the commission would require the installation of equipment to limit maximum speeds, based on the riders' age.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and consumer groups oppose the proposed rules.

A vote may still be a ways off. The staff plans to update the commission in June with additional research.

Agency staff last year completed a study of 85 ATV accidents in 2005 involving youngsters and fatalities. In most of the cases, adult-size ATVs were being driven.

In more than 75 percent of the incidents where speed could be determined, it appeared that the ATVs were going too fast for conditions. In nearly 60 percent of the fatalities, riders were not wearing helmets. For younger riders, ages 6-11, about 30 percent of the ATV accidents involved collisions; at least 27 percent involved ATVs that rolled over.

The commission will review the analysis as it considers new rules.

Since 2004, sales of all-terrain vehicles have declined. Industry figures show that 912,000 of the vehicles were sold in the United States in 2004; 893,000 in 2005; 890,000 in 2006; and an estimated 759,000 last year.

The industry late last year decided to come up with a new transitional model for 14- and 15-year-olds that would be bigger than the current youth ATVs on the market, though not quite as large as adult-size ATVs. It says the goal is to keep bigger kids from riding adult-size vehicles. The new model would be able to reach speeds of up to 38 mph.

CPSC staff are concerned about the idea, saying the model would go much too fast for young teens.

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38 Comments

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  • ladyblue Feb 14, 4:38 p.m.

    I think parents should be held responsible in this. I see children who can hardly reach the handles driving these things all over public roads and other people's property. If you don't have a place to be safe with them, then you should just let your child whine if they want it.

  • Z Man Feb 14, 3:47 p.m.

    Yes Southern Country! And it's costing us all money too.

    Have you read an automotive or motorcycle service/owners manual lately? Every other paragraph is a warning about safety. Ex. When draining the fuel tank do not allow gasoline near a spark or flame. Draining near a spark or flame could ignight the gasoline and cause personal injury. Drain gasoline only into an approved container. Bla bla bla bla bla! On and on. I then forget why I was draining the gas in the first place!

    Also, 99.9999999% of the people that get on an airplane know how to fasten a seatbelt! Sorry, but if you don't know how to fasten a seatbelt maybe you shouldn't fly!

    The manufacturers are doing this to fend off the lawyers and the extra expense to document/demonstrate these common sense items costs us all!

  • Southern Country Feb 14, 2:44 p.m.

    The basis of the problem here is NOT the atv, firearm, bicycle, skateboard, swing, jet ski or whatever recreational activity you want to plug into the blank. It all points back to parents. With parenthood comes responsibility. Its your duty as a PARENT to train your child to be responsible. However, a kid will be a kid. I was and got hurt from time to time. My parents didn't blame a manufacture for my accidents. Parents now days are rejecting their own responsibilities by not teaching and not punishing kids when they need it. Don't think by watching your kid do something that they can't get hurt. That isn't the implied supervision that manufacture are calling for on their labels. And NO amount of laws will change how parents respond. Parents will blame manufactures because they want someone to blame. That's the type of society we live in. Its totally wrong but true.

  • Mike128 Feb 14, 2:38 p.m.

    Agree BeachBoater, I've been riding dirt bikes since the age of 5. Sure, have had some falls, but you do this long enough and you will fall. The key then is to be wearing the proper riding gear.

    Common sense seems to be seriously lacking these days and it's getting worse. I see people riding 4 wheelers with no helmets, shorts and flip flops, usually with a cooler full of beer strapped on the front. What do you expect?

    If people were really concerned with saving the lives of younger people, they wouldn't be allowed in cars.... Auto accidents are the leading cause of death for those under 24.

  • Z Man Feb 14, 2:35 p.m.

    Yes, yes, outlaw ATVs! Then we'll concentrate on baseball bats, hardballs and softballs, hockey sticks, skates of all kinds, bicycles, skateboards, swimming, running, ...

    ATVs ARE dangerous. So is everything else listed above to some degree. There is inherent risk in everything we do. If you get out of bed in the morning you are taking a risk!

    Get over it - else there will only 1 profession in this country... ambulance chasing lawyers.

  • smitty Feb 14, 2:29 p.m.

    What's wrong with a mountain bike? Look around, kids are getting fatter and fatter. The last thing they need is a motor to push their fat rear end around.

  • Builder Feb 14, 2:25 p.m.

    I hear ya beachboater !!

  • rabel2 Feb 14, 2:17 p.m.

    why is is allowed to give them a vehicle that can just as easily kill or injure?

    The same reason they are allowed to drive watercraft.ie; jet skiis

    Nope, you're wrong.....http://www.ncwildlife.org/pg05_BoatingWaterways/pg5c1_law.htm
    No one under 14 years old can operate a PWC in North Carolina waters.
    A person at least 14 years old but less than 16 years old, can operate a PWC if: they are riding with a person who is at least 18; or the youth has first successfully completed an approved boating safety education course (proof of age and safety course completion must be carried by the youth during operation of the PWC.)

  • obs Feb 14, 2:12 p.m.

    More breaking news just in.. "1 out of 5 people on average are actually children"..

  • beachboater Feb 14, 2:12 p.m.

    The article stated that 60% of accidents were not wearing helmets. That's just common sense. Too large an ATV for a child is again common sense.

    Protect your gourd, wear a helmet.

    I had a 4-wheel ATV that would go 100+mph. Never an accident, never an injurt. Always wore a helmet, and knew where to go fast and where not to. It's only common sense.
    Unfortunately,common sense is not nearly as common as it used to be and should be.

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