Safety regulations may tighten – August 14, 2006

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has taken an initial step to change federal ATV safety and manufacturing standards.
The new standards, if ultimately approved, would:

  • Make mandatory the voluntary performance standards followed by major manufacturers. The new powers would give the CPSC?greater ability to issue recalls, allow it to work with the U.S. Port Authority to educate inspectors on which violations to look for when ATVs are entering the United States and give the CPSC greater powers to enforce the new guidelines, including site visits and record examinations of U.S. manufacturers. “This would be for U.S. and foreign importers together,” CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson said.
  • Shift how youth ATVs are regulated. Instead of engine size and speed, the CPSC suggests regulating only by speed. In addition, instead of two age categories, there would be three. The proposed regulations are: for youths 12 to 16, a maximum speed of 30 mph and a parent-activated governor of 15 mph; for children 9 and older, 15 mph with a 10 mph governor; and for children age 6 and up, 10 mph or less. The CPSC’s thought is that children physically mature at different rates. When a 6-foot, 200-pound 15-year-old tries to ride a children’s ATV, “what we’re seeing is them riding their brother’s or an adult ATV,” Wolfson said. “Instead, we’d like to see manufacturers build bigger frames that fit the rider properly. If we can change thinking and help children get back on appropriate ATVs, we can cut back on the number of injuries.”
  • Formally ban three-wheel ATVs. While established ATV manufacturers have banned the vehicles for years, new three-wheelers are appearing in the United States via the Internet. “With a formal ban in place, it would empower the CPSC to take swift action to the introduction of three-wheelers in the marketplace,” said CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson.
  • Propose that a document be signed at the point of sale that says free training is available and is a reasonable distance away and at a reasonable time.
  • Sign another document at the point of sale that acknowledges the seriousness of children riding ATVs. “It would inform parents of the hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries to children each year,” Wolfson said. “One-third of all deaths and injuries each year are to riders under 16. Ninety percent of deaths of children on ATVs are attributable to children riding or being a passenger on an adult ATV. An 11- or 12-year-old is not able physically or mentally to handle an ATV that goes 50 mph and weighs 900 pounds.”
    The CPSC staff is hashing out some of the details of their proposal, including those affecting mandatory safety classes.
    “Of course, it’s an issue of rural and suburban and what a reasonable distance for one as opposed to another,” Wolfson said, referring to the requirement that classes be a reasonable time and distance away from the dealership.
    He said talks are ongoing with groups interested in safety training.
    “Right now there are three major players in safety training; there’s the SVIA, the OEMs and the states. We really need to research this before we reach the final stage, before we get the final rule into shape.”
    The three CPSC commissioners unanimously approved the changes — outlined in a 440-page document — on July 12. They also asked the commission’s staff to examine several of their questions.
    Also at the hearing, the CPSC rejected a request by anti-ATV groups to ban the sale of full-size ATVs for use by children under 16. The petition was filed by the Consumer Federation of America, Bluewater Network and the Natural Trails and Waters Coalition. The petition goes against current CPSC thinking that the earlier an ATV rider gets safety training, the fewer injuries children will suffer.
    With the commissioners’ approval, the CPSC will begin a 75-day public comment period that will start early this month. After the comment period ends, the staff will review the comments, answer the commissioners’ questions and bring a new report to the commission sometime in 2007.
    The commissioners came up with five questions of their own:

  • Is 30 mph too fast for children?
  • Should there be separate training classes for adults and children?
  • Are two-ups appropriate for youth riders?
  • Should there be headlights on youth ATVs? The CPSC doesn’t want to encourage night riding, but is concerned that a child riding at dusk won’t be seen.
  • Should the CPSC examine current youth models to take the best practices and make those performance standards mandatory?
    ATV manufacturers and interest groups are watching the CPSC process closely.
    “We’ve followed the consent decree and we’re still following it,” said Roger Hagie, director of public affairs for Kawasaki. The decree, created in 1988, was a voluntary agreement by ATV manufacturers to adhere to manufacturing and safety standards. That agreement ended in 1998, but major manufacturers are still abiding by the agreement. “If you incorporate these standards into the (CPSC) process, that’s a good place to start,” he said.
    Tim Buche, the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America’s president, said the proposal is based largely on the voluntary standards, which ATV companies are in the process of updating.
    “We expect that these updated standards will again be the basis for any final mandatory rule,” Buche said. He did not define the standards being updated.
    The issue is a timely one, Hagie said. “If you look at new entrants’ products, they’re not meeting safety standards.”
    Hagie said the CPSC and the industry are feeling their way on many of these issues. He said input during the comment period “is absolutely recommended.”
    Buche said ATV companies will closely review and comment on the proposed rules. The ATV community “continues to support federal legislation that requires all ATVs to meet minimum uniform safety standards. Such legislation will provide immediate protections for U.S. consumers.” psb

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