San Diego Union Tribune

October 20, 2006

New rules to restrict ATVs' use by children

Decreasing deaths and injuries is goal


WASHINGTON – Concerned about the deaths of children on all-terrain vehicles, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is preparing to establish new rules restricting use of the vehicles, while mounting a major educational campaign.

But the commission has stopped short of an outright ban of adult-size ATVs for children under age 16, which has been sought by parents groups and others who say too many youths have died on adult-size ATVs.



After examining the issue for the past two years, authorities announced the education campaign in an effort to reduce injuries and deaths.

Nationwide, 6,500 deaths were reported from 1982 through 2004, with 30 percent involving children under 16. In California, there were 324 deaths during the same period, the most in the nation. The number of four-wheel ATVs in use in the United States has increased from more than 2 million to more than 6.9 million over the past decade.

The major focus of the commission is targeting children who ride adult-size ATVs. “There have been too many children killed while driving or riding as a passenger on adult ATVs,” acting Chairwoman Nancy Nord said.

This summer, the commission rejected a petition filed by a coalition of parents that sought to disallow adult-size vehicles for children under 16.

Instead, the commission will focus on its educational campaign, said Scott Wolfson, Consumer Product Safety Commission spokesman.

The commission's campaign includes new television and radio public-service announcements, the creation of the Web site, and partnering with organizations and officials dedicated to promoting ATV safety.

The commission also has proposed:

 A ban on three-wheel ATVs, which have been drastically reduced in the market since 1988, when the commission and manufacturers reached an agreement to stop making or selling them. But authorities have seen a re-emergence of the vehicles through Internet sales.

 Requiring retailers to offer free training to all ATV buyers and members of their immediate family and warn against children using adult ATVs.

Officials said they also are looking into the possibility of creating a separate vehicle size to meet the needs of younger children who are too big for the smaller ATVs.

“We're certainly looking for a wider youth model that allows for proper spacing for the arms and legs to the steering column,” Wolfson said.

Sue Rabe of Turner, Ore., whose 10-year-old son was killed in an ATV accident, said she was dismayed by the commission's plans.

“We wanted a clear message not to put a child on an adult-sized ATV,” said Rabe, who represents Concerned Families for ATV Safety, based in Brockton, Mass.

Creating a vehicle sized for children “does nothing to solve the existing problem of children riding (ATVs),” she said.

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