ATVs Are Dangerous to Children: New Data Demonstrates Continued Risk of Injury and Death

According to preliminary data released by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), at least 53 children lost their lives in 2016 due to all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), and an estimated 26,800 children were injured seriously enough to require treatment in a hospital emergency department. Compared to 2015, the rate of serious injuries increased slightly, while deaths decreased slightly, though the data collection is ongoing and not yet considered complete.

“Too many families, thousands of families every year, are tragically impacted by ATV deaths and serious injuries. ATVs are one of the most dangerous products CPSC regulates, causing more deaths and injuries than almost any other product under CPSC’s jurisdiction,” stated Rachel Weintraub, Legislative Director and General Counsel for the Consumer Federation of America (CFA). “The data indicates that estimated injuries have increased since 2015 and deaths from ATVs have slightly decreased. The CPSC, ATV manufacturers, retailers, and all stakeholders should do much more to prevent these serious and sometimes life-altering incidents.”

“As a pediatrician, my number one job is to keep children safe and healthy. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents that ATVs are not safe for children and should not be used by any child under the age of 16,” said Colleen A. Kraft, MD, FAAP, and President of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).  “However, children continue to drive and ride in these vehicles, and the injuries and deaths continue as a result. Children are not developmentally capable of operating these heavy, complex machines. We can and must do more to prevent these incidents in the first place and protect children from further harm.”

It is important to note that there is always a lag between the occurrence of ATV related deaths and the reports of those deaths making their way to the CPSC and therefore the 2013, 2014, and 2015 statistics should not be considered complete.

The CPSC released its 2016 Annual Report of ATV-Related Deaths and Injuries on December 26, 2017. Major findings include:

  • Estimates of serious injuries requiring emergency room treatment among people of all ages increased from 97,200 in 2015 to 101,200 in 2016.
  • The 2016 emergency department-treated injury estimate for all ages reflects an increase of 4 percent from the 2015 estimate, which is not statistically significant.
  • Between 2007 and 2016, there is an overall decrease of 33 percent of estimated numbers of emergency department-treated injuries for children younger than 16. This is statistically significant.
  • The estimated number of 4-wheel ATV-related fatalities for all ages decreased from 661 in 2014 to 647 in 2015. The agency notes, however, that the 2014, 2015, and 2016 data are not considered complete and will likely increase.
  • In 2016, ATVs killed at least 53 children younger than 16, accounting for 16 percent of ATV fatalities. Forty-three percent of children killed were younger than 12 years old in 2016. 2016 ATV fatality data is considered incomplete.
  • Children under age 16 suffered an estimated 26,800 serious injuries in 2016, an increase from 26,700 in 2015, which represented 26 percent of all injuries.
  • Children under age 12 suffered an estimated 13,900 serious injuries in 2016, an increase from 13,400 in 2015.

The 2016 emergency department-treated injury estimate for children younger than 16 years of age represents less than half a percent increase over the 2015 estimate, although this is not a statistically significant increase.

CPSC’s ATV data does not include recreational off- highway vehicle deaths and injuries. CFA tracks off-highway vehicle deaths, including recreational off-highway vehicles, and identified 509 in 2017. Of the 509 fatalities documented, it was possible to determine the vehicle type in 491 of those fatalities. Of those 491 fatalities, 130 or 26%, took place on a recreational off-highway vehicle—a significant amount of the total. Note that the data is not complete and these fatalities may continue to rise as CFA gathers more data. CFA urges the CPSC to begin tracking all off-highway vehicle deaths and injuries in one report.

In 2002, consumer groups filed a petition with the CPSC calling for the CPSC to ban the sale of adult-size ATVs for use by children. While the agency under the leadership of Chairman Hal Stratton denied the petition, the CPSC began a rulemaking process to create new ATV safety standards. On August 12, 2011, Congress passed H.R. 2715 which amended the CPSIA and which directed the CPSC to complete the ATV rulemaking within a year of enactment. The rule has not yet been completed.

In March 2014, CFA released a report, “ATVs on Roadways: A Safety Crisis” documenting the growing trend of states permitting ATV use on roads, a practice that contradicts recommendations from the CPSC, public health, consumer and ATV industry groups. CFA updated this report in 2015 and found that ROVs are permitted wherever ATVs are permitted. “CPSC’s data in the Annual Report of ATV-Related Deaths and Injuries is a critical source of information for those working to decrease ATV deaths and injuries,” stated Weintraub. “We urge CPSC to include information about how many ATV deaths and injuries took place on and off road.”

Both the Consumer Federation of America and the AAP continue to call upon the agency to reject the manufacture of a transitional, “youth model” ATV for 14- to 16-year-olds that is capable of traveling at speeds up to 38 miles per hour.

The CPSC, industry, and many consumer advocates recommend that children ages 12 through 15 not ride ATVs with engines larger than 90 cc’s. The AAP recommends that no child under age 16 ride an ATV of any size.

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