All-terrain vehicle safety is the focus of a regional public hearing the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission will hold in Morgantown, W. Va., on June 5, 2003. ATV-related injuries in the U.S. have doubled in a recent five-year period and deaths also continue to climb.
"We recognize the growing popularity and diversity of uses for ATVs by the American public, but we are concerned about the disproportionate increase in the number of deaths and injuries associated with their use in recent years," said Hal Stratton, CPSC chairman.
ATV injuries requiring an emergency room visit increased by 104 percent from an estimated 54,700 in 1997 to more than 111,000 in 2001. In 2001, about a third of these victims were under 16 years old. In this same period the estimated number of ATV drivers increased 36 percent, driving hours grew by 50 percent and the number of ATVs increased by 40 percent, according to a recent CPSC analysis.
In 1999, the last year for which death records are substantially complete, CPSC has reports of 357 people who died as a result of ATV use, up from 251 in 1998 and 241 in 1997.
"We want to hear from people who use ATVs for recreation, on their farms or ranches and in industry. We want to understand their motivations. We also want to hear the perspectives of medical professionals and emergency service providers, state and local public health and safety professionals, distributors and dealers, and any others who feel they have a stake in this important issue," Stratton said.
Interested persons from Maryland, Ohio and Pennsylvania also are invited to participate in the West Virginia hearing.
"West Virginia and Pennsylvania ranked in the top six states for ATV-related deaths between 1982 and 2001," Stratton said, "so it makes sense to hold a hearing in that area." (Pennsylvania and West Virginia recorded 264 and 194 deaths, respectively, in that period. Ohio recorded 124 deaths and Maryland 25 deaths.)
The Consumer Federation of America and other groups petitioned the CPSC in September 2002 requesting a ban on the sale of adult-size 4- wheel ATVs sold for the use of children under the age of 16. The commission sought written public comments on the petition from October through March 16, 2003. The West Virginia hearing will provide an additional opportunity for the public to express its views about this petition.
In the 1980s the CPSC held hearings in several locations around the country to address hazards associated with ATVs, namely as they related to the then-popular three-wheeled vehicles.
In 1987, the commission filed a lawsuit under section 12 of the Consumer Product Safety Act to declare ATVs an imminently hazardous consumer product. The lawsuit was settled in 1988 by consent decrees between the commission and ATV distributors. The consent decrees expired in 1998. The consent decrees contained provisions addressing both three-wheel and four-wheel ATVs, and led to the elimination of the manufacture of three-wheeled ATVs.
After the consent decrees expired, the commission entered into "ATV Action Plans" with individual distributors who had been subject to the original consent decrees and three other distributors who had subsequently entered the market. In the consent decrees and action plans, ATV distributors agreed to use their best efforts to see that adult-size ATVs (vehicles with engines larger than 90 cc) would not be sold for use by children under 16 years of age.
Since the expiration of the consent decrees, the commission has continued to study and gather information about ATV-related injuries and deaths. It also continues to monitor the ATV dealer market to make sure that industry complies with the agreement not to sell adult-size ATVs for children.
From 1997 to 2001, ATV-related injuries rose 104 percent, from an estimated 54,700 to 111,700.
Over the same five years: the number of drivers rose 36 percent from 12.0 to 16.3 million; the number of driving hours rose 50 percent from 1,575 to 2,364 million; and the number of ATVs rose 40 percent from 4.0 to 5.6 million.
None of these exposure measures accounts completely for the rise in injuries.
Subgroups that have been associated with greater risk for injury continue to be at greater risk in 2001; for example, drivers under the age of 16, drivers with less than one year of driving experience, and recreational drivers.
CPSC was petitioned by consumer organizations in September 2002 to ban the sale of adult-size 4-wheel ATVs sold for use by children under age 16.
CPSC will consider its recent injury/exposure studies and all other information, including that obtained at the regional hearing in West Virginia, in responding to the petition.
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