A controversial ATV proposal – September 4, 2006

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has proposed changes to federal ATV safety and manufacturing standards. One of these controversial changes requires consumers to sign a document at the point of sale acknowledging the potential safety risks for children under the age of 16.
As part of the proposal, the CPSC initiated a comment period on Aug. 10 and is taking input for 75 days.
This latest proposal has roots in a 1998 CPSC document titled “Issue of resolution commending the actions of certain ATV manufacturers/distributors.” The resolution states that ATV manufacturers Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki and Polaris agreed to enhance consumer safety following the expiration of the 1988 Consent Decrees, with Arctic Cat doing the same following its own 1996 Consent Decree, with the intent of “reducing deaths and injuries to children” by encouraging states to prohibit children from riding adult-sized ATVs and to promote safety measures for all riders.
Consumer Product Safety Commission spokesman Scott Wolfson said the proposal to mandate the signing of a document is a hot button topic for some dealers and consumers, but it’s long overdue.
“There was a consensual agreement that dealers would inform buyers about the risks of ATV riding,” Wolfson said via phone from his Maryland office. While many dealers have complied with the verbal warning regarding youths on adult-sized ATVs, the CPSC did not want to “take a chance” that some dealers may not comply, Wolfson said.
“We want to be sure we hone the message that is shared. The staff has been working on proposed language (for the point-of-sale proposal). What was going on in 1998 is not the same as what we now know. Now we have data to strengthen the message of the large majority of deaths with children less than 16 years of age are attributed to riding adult model ATVs. That new data that we have could help make that message, that element even more effective.”
Wolfson said he realizes some businesses will not be happy with the proposed change. In fact, several sales managers contacted by Powersports Business did not want to publicly comment on the proposal more than to say they think it isn’t fair, and wanted to know if the CPSC requires other sport or recreational vehicle salesman to have customers sign a waiver.
“I do not believe at the point of sale that I can identify any other product area,” says Wolfson. “This proposal for ATVs is a unique idea that was first proposed by former chairman Hal Stratton in June of 2005, and is being followed up now.”
Jim Nakos, sales manager for Manchester Sports Center out of Manchester, Conn., went on the record by saying he thinks it will hurt business.
“I think it’s an unfair proposal, and I don’t want it to happen,” he said. “For recreational riders, it’s all (the CPSC) is looking at, the kids getting hurt. But for adult-sized ATVs used around a farm, (the document signing) can be a very inconvenient process and a hindrance to their business.”
Nakos feels the resolution would hurt his business by scaring off buyers. He also says customers are not seeing the big picture by failing to take the safety courses provided by manufacturers that could prevent some from becoming another statistic.
While training is offered by manufacturers to buyers of new ATVs, only family members who are of the proper age for the purchased ATV can get this training, and this leads to a Catch-22: Children under 16 are limited to ATVs with engine displacements of 90cc or less. If an adult-sized ATV is purchased, only those 16 and older are eligible for training.
Nakos offered a solution.
“Some kids are giants!” he said. “They’re 13 or 15 years old, and the government wants them to ride 90cc ATVs. The teenagers are laughing at you when you tell them to ride a tiny ATV. Manufacturers should make something that fits taller kids under 16, something that is light and easy to handle that doesn’t do 90mph.”
Nevertheless, Nakos says they have always abided by the consensual agreement, and have the congratulatory letters from manufacturers as proof, even though their honesty has lost them a sale.
“I’ve had to turn down customers with cash in hand because they wanted to buy an ATV for their child,” he said. “It’s tough as a dealer.”
Jay Eugair, Central Vermont Motorcycles general manager, doesn’t deny the proposal could be an obstacle in the sales department, but would welcome the change.
“We’ve been doing (an ATV waiver) at least since 1997,” he said of the form that on- and off-road consumers must sign before purchasing their vehicle.
Eugair’s waiver has big letters across the bottom that read “Important Safety Information” preceded by a list of questions and statements, such as “Is this your first purchase?”, “Do you have previous ATV experience?”, “ATVs handle differently than other vehicles,” and “Children under 16 should not operate this ATV.”
Eugair says Central Vermont Motorcycles’ waiver is an unfortunate sign of the times.
“It takes the liability off the dealer,” he said. “Some people get sue happy.”
And like Nakos, Eugair’s shop has passed its tests. Manufacturers “do stings,”?he said. “They’ll send someone in with a 10-year-old kid, and say they want to buy (an adult-sized ATV) for my son.
“But it’s not scaring our potential customers. If anything, we really want people to respect ATVs because there’s always someone hurting themselves. The proposal is a good thing, and every dealer should do it.”
Or at least comment on it.
Wolfson says the “best and easiest way to comment” is by e-mailing tstevenson@cpsc.gov before the comment period expires.
“With your constituency, those who read Powersports Business, we truly want to hear from those who may be most deeply affected by the proposed rules,” Wolfson said. “Have the dealers share comments about what they see as the potential impact on their business operations.” psb

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