All terrain vehicles, or "ATVs" were first designed in the late 1960s by Honda. The first ATV was sold in the United States in 1971. This began an era of great popularity for the ATV. The first ATVs were designed in a three wheel tricycle-like configuration. Such design was the industry standard until the late 1980s.
Shortly after Honda's first ATV was released, other manufacturers introduced competing vehicles. These included products launched by Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki. The American market for ATVs was exploding; unfortunately, the increased popularity of the vehicles brought an alarming number of ATV accidents. ATV accidents can be just as severe as a car wreck. This increase prompted the United States Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) to launch an investigation into the safety of ATVs. In 1986 the CPSC issued a report in which the agency determined that there were approximately 2.4 million ATVs in use throughout the United States. The CPSC estimates that from 1982 to 2002, 5,239 people died from injuries associated with ATV use.
Shortly after the CPSC report was issued, the United States Justice Department filed a lawsuit alleging that ATVs and their manufacturers violated the Consumer Product Safety Act. In 1987 the various ATV manufacturers agreed to discontinue producing three-wheeled ATVs. Experts have cited the three-wheel ATV design as one of the primary flaws of the original ATVs. Today's ATVs manufacturers utilize a four-wheel design that assists in stabilizing the vehicle.
Unfortunately, the 1987 agreement to halt production of the three-wheeled ATV did not require manufacturers to recall the over 2.4 million defective ATVs already sold throughout the country. Many of these extremely dangerous ATVs remain in use today.
A 2004 article published by the Wall Street Journal revealed alarming statistics regarding deaths and injuries linked to ATV use. According to the report, while sales of ATVs rose nearly 90 percent between 1997 and 2002, ATV-related deaths increased 67 percent during the same period. Over 110,000 riders were injured in 2002. Since 1992, children under the age of 16 have accounted for a third of ATV-related injuries. Over the last 12 years, children under 12 represent 14 percent of ATV deaths.
Unfortunately, there is little state regulation. Forty states do not require a driver's license to operate an ATV and over 30 allow 12-year-olds to drive the vehicles. In West Virginia, which averages 15 ATV deaths a year, legislation has failed to pass for the last seven years.
June 3, 2003
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says that 35 witnesses have registered to testify about all-terrain vehicle (ATV) safety at the commission's regional public hearing to be held in Morgantown, W.Va., on June 5, 2003. Estimated ATV-related injuries in the U.S. have doubled in a recent 5-year period and deaths also continue to climb.
The 35 witnesses include medical doctors, injury prevention researchers, ATV dealers, ATV riders, consumer safety advocates, and families of victims from ATV-related crashes.
"The diversity of views is exactly what we want to hear at the ATV safety hearing," said CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton. "We are concerned about the disproportionate increase in the number of deaths and injuries associated with ATV use in recent years, and we hope the hearing will help us understand the causes of these deaths and injuries."
ATV injuries requiring an emergency room visit increased by 104 percent from an estimated 54,700 in 1997 to 111,700 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 50 percent and the number of ATVs increased 40 percent, according to a recent commission analysis.
For 1999, the last year for which death records are substantially complete, the commission has reports of 357 people who died as a result of ATV use, up from 251 in 1998 and 241 in 1997.
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