Editorial: Industry spins wheels on ATV safety issues

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 5, 2005

Rightly or wrongly, the all-terrain vehicle industry is seen by many as spinning its wheels on some issues of ATV safety.

For two reasons, the industry should work hard to reverse that perception:

First and most important, it would be the right thing to do.

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Second, it would be in the industry’s long-term interest in an important and underappreciated way.

Hal Stratton, chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, recently ordered a top-to-bottom review of national safety standards for ATVs, which is a reversal.

He changed his stance apparently in response to an increase in ATV injuries and deaths. For example, a record 34 West Virginians were killed in ATV accidents in 2004, five more than in the two previous years.

Clearly, any activity that has led to nearly 6,000 deaths since 1982, one-third of them children under 16, deserves strict scrutiny and regulation. But the ATV industry’s safety efforts get hammered by groups such as the Consumer Federation of America. &uot;New report challenges industry’s dangerous response to ATV safety crisis,&uot; read the headline of a 2003 press release by the federation, which noted the industry’s opposition to reforms proposed by, among other groups, the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The federation’s conclusions are open to challenge. But here’s a statement that isn’t: Many adults won’t ride ATVs because of safety concerns, just as many parents refuse to let their kids ride even the ATVs that are recommended for the young people’s sizes. That’s in part because the claims of the Consumer Federation and other groups have penetrated the national consciousness, and made consumers suspicious.

An all-out effort to reverse that perception could put potential customers at ease.

If the ATV industry did everything it could to make those rules the norm, and to discourage careless actions such as letting children ride adult-sized ATVs, lives would be saved. That would make Americans take notice, and convince some number of people to relax their absolute opposition to ATVs.

In other words, the ATV industry should put &uot;Safety First&uot; so vigorously that critics have little to complain about. A sterling safety record not only would do the industry proud, but also could encourage more people to (responsibly) give ATVs a try. That’s what’s known as a &uot;win-win.&uot;

&045; Grand Forks Herald