Thursday, November 6, 2003
Feds Look at ATV Regulation Today
By Jeff Jones
Journal Staff Writer
Newly released statistics that show more people are getting hurt and killed on all-terrain vehicles show there's a dire need for federal ATV regulation, a consumer group said Wednesday.
The ATV industry, however, countered that the rates of injuries and deaths compared to the number of ATVs have actually dropped. Industry representatives said state law, not intervention from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, is the best way to make the sport safer.
The duel of words and statistics came on the eve of today's CPSC hearing in Albuquerque, where people from around the West are scheduled to give their 2 cents on ATV safety matters. That hearing starts at 9 a.m. in Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute's Smith-Brasher Hall, 717 University SE.
According to just-released numbers from the CPSC, an estimated 104,800 people around the nation went to emergency rooms due to four-wheeler ATV injuries in 2002, an increase of 6,600 from 2001.
The CPSC also reported an estimated 584 four-wheeler ATV deaths in 2001, the most current year available. In 2000, the agency reported an estimated 516 deaths.
New Mexico has contributed a significant share to the death toll: More than 40 people in this state have died due to ATV wrecks in the past decade. New Mexico has no laws mandating helmets, training, age limits or the number of passengers on four-wheeler ATVs.
The Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, the voice of the ATV industry, pointed out that when the number of machines in use is factored in, the rate of injuries has dropped. A news release from that group said the injury rate dropped 5 percent from 2001 to 2002, while the fatality rate dropped 14 percent during the period from 1999 to 2001.
"There has not been this dramatic run-up" in death and injury numbers, said David Murray, an attorney for one ATV manufacturer. "Progress is being made."
Rachel Weintraub, assistant general counsel for the Consumer Federation of America, a Washington, D.C.-based consumer advocacy group, accused the ATV industry of "spinning the numbers in a very reckless way."
Ken Giles, a CPSC spokesman, pointed out Wednesday that a one-year drop in the injury rate doesn't make a trend.
"The bottom line from our point of view is, deaths are up. Injuries are up. Kids under 16 are still a sizable component of the injuries," Giles said. "Why is this happening and what can we do about it?"
WHAT: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission hearing on ATV safety issues.
WHEN: 9 a.m. today.
WHERE: TVI's Smith-Brasher Hall, 717 University SE.