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David Rowell
David Rowell
Contributor •

ATV Deaths

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Despite recent improvements in safety, ATVs remain some of the most dangerous products available to consumers. An incident today illustrate that danger: a 67 year-old San Andreas resident was killed in an ATV incident on private property; his ATV rolled backwards on top of him as he attempted to climb a steep hill.

This sad incident is only the tip of the iceberg, however. The Consumer Products Safety Commission’s ATV safety website, ATVSafety.gov, reports over 555 deaths in 1996, the latest year for which figures are available. In addition to the deaths, says CPSC, another 146,000 people were treated in Emergency Departments for ATV injuries.Moreover, “Government safety officials expect the number to go much higher as they receive information from coroners and hospitals nationwide.”

Problems with reporting have tended to hide the severity of the danger; in the last year alone the CPSC added almost 200 deaths to the number reported for 2005, bringing that number to 666. The CPSC estimates 870 deaths for 2005, and even more for 2007 and 2008.

Responsibility for this tragedy is not clear. The ATV industry says they are doing everything they can to make the products safe and to protect consumers. Rachel Weintraub, Director of Product Safety for the Consumer Federation of America, disagrees; “instead of working to keep children off adult-size ATVs and creating meaningful standards to decrease ATV hazards, the ATV industry has been prioritizing the protection of their economic interest and seeking to shift the blame from their vehicles to the riders.

Consumers wanting to know more should check the CPSC website ATVSAfety.gov, which has a list of safety tips and safety messages.