The Checkout

Making ATVs Safer

In the midst of the Deadly Spinach Outbreak last week, the battle over ATVs took another twist.

Consumer Product Safety Commission Acting Chairperson Nancy Nord took to the airwaves to encourage the public to "take knowledge to the extreme" and learn how to more safely enjoy ATVs.

To help get the message out, the agency enlisted some minor celebrity wattage: National 4-H Council chief executive and president Donald Floyd, NASCAR racing legend Richard Petty and ATV racing champion John Natalie.

Not the most potent antidote for Johnny Knoxville, but then again, what is?

Then there's the campaign itself, an odd sort of about-face for the agency, which decided last year not to ban ATVs, because, as staff explained at the time, "it cannot control the behavior of consumers or prevent adults from allowing children to ride adult-size ATVs."

ATVs have been linked to nearly 6,500 deaths since 1982, seriously injured more than 135,000 in 2004 alone. They were responsible for 740 deaths in 2003. About a third of those incidents involved children under 16. Consumers Union and other groups have been pushing for a ban on ATVs for kids and on three-wheeled models, as well as for mandatory safety standards.

After saying it couldn't control people's behavior, the CPSC is going to try anyway and has even come around to a limited ban.

In addition to the education campaign, Nord said the agency is considering prohibiting the sale of three-wheeled models--which put riders at three times the risk of injury compared to four-wheelers--making voluntary safety standards mandatory, reducing the number of youth models and their speeds, and requiring retailers to provide free training and written warnings to buyers when they purchase an ATV.

The public has until Oct. 24, 2006, to comment on the proposed rules. If you want to chime in, you can funnel your thoughts to: For more on ATV safety, check out the CPSC's new site,

Do you think the CPSC is doing enough? Too little? Too much? ATV riders speak up!

By Annys Shin |  September 25, 2006; 9:00 AM ET Consumer News
Previous: Watch Out for The Credit Watchers | Next: CSPC on ATVs


Please email us to report offensive comments.

Bans and regulation can not control consumer behavior. Over the Summer I was ripping down a dirt road on an ATV doing 50 mph with no helmet on, I know it was a stupid and irresponsible thing to do but I did it anyway. You can't keep people like me from being stupid.

Posted by: Sleazy Rider | September 25, 2006 11:00 AM

The great thing about this country is that if you are not planning to ride your vehicle on a street, just about anything goes. How can you even discuss banning ATVs when it is perfectly legal for me to just build my own?

I wonder how those injured/killed statistics compare across assorted high-speed off-road activities. Mountain biking? BMX? Skiing? How about the number of killed or injured on perfectly "safe" street legal machines on our nation's roads each day?

I grew up with ATVs, and under all the rhetoric, I see only two issues. 1) Some stupid people don't realize that ATVing not as safe as driving your car around the neighborhood. In almost all cases, however, the condition of the terrain is what causes danger or injury. So, in the name of safety, let's ban bumpy trails, rocks, or any sort of undulation in the landscape. 2) City slickers in particular have a visceral reaction against young people and machines. But that's really none of their business.

Posted by: bkp | September 25, 2006 12:18 PM

If you want to go out, ride without a helmet over rough terrain, be my guest. Who am I to say that you cannot. You may get injured, but chances are, you probably won't. And you know what? Either way, I don't particularly care. I'm not an EMT, so it won't be me who treats you should you get hurt. Really, my life won't be effected either way, hurt or unhurt (unless you should run me over, which is an entirely different supposition), so why is it that these people are always trying to protect us from ourselves? If you want to do something and it doesn't really effect anyone but you, then who am I to tell you what you can and cannot do? It may be stupid, it may not be stupid, but it doesn't change the fact that as long as I am not involved, I don't really care. It is up to you as a responsible adult to become knowledgable about the products you buy, the vehicles you drive, the activities in which you allow your children to engage. It's called personal responsibility. Those who wish to regulate that should find something else to occupy thier time so the rest of us can get back to living our very short lives the way we would like.

Posted by: Who Cares? | September 25, 2006 12:38 PM

The need for regulating ATVs arises from improper use. I grew up riding ATVs and my parents did not let us ride until we were at least 12 years old. These were not used solely for recreation, but for making it easier for us to get around the family farm (when I say farm, I really mean farm, not 5 acres that most people claim to be farm) to repair fencens, move the cows and to bring supplies to the fields. Now ATVs are becoming more prevelant in suburban areas, people are buying ATVs for purely recreational reasons and do not know how to properly use the machines and do not teach their children safe practices.
The proposed regulations are not excessive. They provide training to people who do not know what they are doing. I am interested on how the voluntary safety regulations are going to be monitored if they become mandatory. If you are riding on your private property, can you be cited if the officer decides to come see if you are under age? The training program sounds like a good idea for people who are responsible enough to partake of it.
To Who Cares? yes, it is a matter of personal responsibility. However, ATV riders who knowingly put themselves in danger and get seriously hurt put a greater burden on society. If they are uninsured, who do you think pays for their care? If they are insured, they just contribute to the rise of health care premiums.
To Sleazy Rider, help save several lives if you are going to be stupid. Become an organ donor and make sure your family knows about your wishes. If you sustain injuries that results in brain death, at least you will be able to help others.

Posted by: BiochemGirl | September 25, 2006 1:19 PM

One related question that I have not seen addressed is the question of insurance and liability for children operating ATVs. A
while ago I was told by my insurance agent that such operators are not covered by their parents auto insurance and that without an umbrella policy in force they were basically driving their parent's home around since, if an accident occured, there was no insurance coverage.
Is this indeed the case? If not, what kind of premiums are the norm?

Posted by: DFM | September 25, 2006 6:06 PM

Just another example of Nature's Law of "Survival of the Fittest" through selective weeding of the stupid ones out of the gene pool.

If someone builds it, someone will figure how to misuse it and kill themselves or others. You can't legislate behavior.

Posted by: AH | September 25, 2006 6:55 PM

Please note that CPSC's ATV safety campaign does not involve regulating rider behavior, as our agency does not have the authority to mandate helmet use or prohibit riding on paved roads. (Check out to see a list of those states who have passed laws related to ATV riding.) Our campaign is geared towards driving down the 700+ deaths and 135,000 injuries that occur each year through education. Our message is simple: if all riders gear up, never ride tandem, never ride on paved roads, never ride under the influence, and never allow a child under 16 to drive or ride on an adult size ATV...then deaths and injuries will decline. We have a moral and public responsibility at CPSC to do our part to try and save lives, while recognizing that ATV riding is growing in popularity.

While our education campaign is taking place, CPSC is also working on new federal rules, which would formally ban 3-wheelers, make the voluntary performance standards mandatory, call for 3 types of youth ATV models instead of 2, require free training to be offered to all new purchasers of an ATV, and require retailers to provide a written form to purchasers warning against the use of adult ATVs by children and giving death and injury statistics related to children riding adult ATVs.

We are not trying to take away 4-wheel ATVs or limit the opportunities to ride, we are simply trying to make the riding experience safer.

Posted by: ScottatCPSC | September 26, 2006 10:40 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company