The US Consumer Products Safety Commission regulates over 15,000 products. All terrain vehicles, ATV's, top the Commission's list as the deadliest product in their portfolio. Each year more than 900 people, many of them children, die from these off-road vehicles. Now an even more dangerous type of ATV has appeared. Looking for a way to break into the lucrative US market, Chinese manufacturers have produced smaller, cheaper ATV's and marketed these as vehicles for children. Where youth models of established ATV brands like Yamaha and Honda can cost upwards of $2000, prices for Chinese ATV's for children and youth average $500.
ATV's are a $5 billion market, and the Consumer Products Safety Commission is concerned about the influx of these small, cheap, vehicles from China. The Commission has recently adopted a set of mandatory safety standards for all ATV's sold in the US.
One model that came to the Commision's attention, was priced at $250. It was sporty-looking and colorful; it also lacked front brakes. Its handlebar assembly had sharp edges, and no protective padding, so that a young rider flung against it could be injured. The Commission voiced their very strong concerns to Fushin, the manufacturer, and in May 2009, Fushin recalled the vehicle.
The small Chinese models are particularly dangerous because they are target for use by children, some as young as 6 years. Unlike cars and motorcycles, there are no federal or state licensure requirements, nor standards for evaluating who is capable of handling one. The American Academy of Pediatrics' policy on ATV's states that the safe use of an All Terrain Vehicle requires as much skill and judgement as driving a car or truck, and that young children have neither the physical strength nor the life experience and judgement to handle an ATV safely in all circumstances. They recommend that children under the age of 16 should be prohibited from driving them. In a 2005 press release, the Academy called ATV's "the perfect recipe for tragedy."Each year more than 100 children die on ATV's, and another 40,000 are treated in emergency rooms.
Concerned Families for ATV Safety is an organization of parents who have lost children in accidents. They point out that there is no evidence that children are safer on "child-sized" vehicles.
An additional concern about ATV's marketed for children is the large number of vehicle components made of lead, or containing lead. Legislation passed last year directs the Consumer Products Safety Commission to limit the lead content of any product primarily used by children under 12. This requirement will not be enforced until 2011, but it will force manufacturers of child-size ATV's to rethink their designs.
If you or your child have been seriously injured, a loved one has died in an ATV accident, and you believe that defects in the vehicle's design contributed to the accident, you may want to discuss your case with a personal injury lawyer experienced in product design and ATV litigation. An experienced ATV attorney can help you determine whether you have a case, and what your options may be.
California product liability law holds all members of a distribution chain responsible for a dangerous or defective product---the designer, the manufacturer, suppliers of component parts, the wholesaler, and the retail store that sold the product.