All Terrain Vehicles

All Terrain Vehicles Accidents Waiting to Happen

Since ATV’s were introduced in the early 1970s, All Terrain Vehi­cles, have become increasingly popu­lar. However, with this popularity came an increasing number of accidents and injuries. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 136,000 injuries and 700 deaths occur every year involving ATV’s.  It might not surprise you to learn that Texas is one of the leading states in the nation for these injuries.

Design Problems

The reason ATV’s are so dan­gerous has a lot to do with their design. They have no frame protecting you in the event of an accident.  Riding on large, low-pressure tires can have difficulty gripping the rough ter­rain over which you travel. Most are stopped by hand-operated brakes, which can lack sufficient power and can easily cause ATVs to turn over on you as they stop.

ATVs have large engines for their size and weight, you can travel as fast as 70 mph, even across broken, uneven terrain. Although many ATVs are not designed to carry any passengers. It is possible (even easy) for someone to jump on the seat behind you. Those people who do will almost certainly be injured if you get into an accident.

Earlier manufactured three-wheeled ATVs were less stable than the current four­ wheeled versions. However, even the four-wheeled models can be top­ heavy and prone to serious rollover accidents. Even on roads and flat surfaces, ATVs can be unstable for you.

Consent Decree

As a result of safety concerns expressed by the federal government, ATV manufacturers entered into a consent decree in 1988. In this decree, they agreed to:

  • Halt pro­duction of three-wheeled ATVs.
  • Provide safety training for new owners.
  • Place warning labels on their products.
  • Make recommendations about what size of ATV is appropriate for different age groups.

Consent Decree expired

Although this consent decree expired in 1998, ATV manufacturers have pledged to continue to fol­low most of its provisions. However, the government can no longer force them by law to do so.

Despite these improvements, the number of injuries and deaths per year attributable to ATV acci­dents continues to rise. To some degree, this is because ATV’s continue to become more popular, and more people ride them. One reason for the increase in injuries and deaths is that manufacturers are marketing them to younger and younger children.

The Latest Marketing Gimmick

The latest marketing gimmick is the so-called “transitional” ATV. Transitional because it’s sized between the smaller ATV’s intended for your children and a full sized adult ATV like you would ride.
ATV makers claim that these ATVs are more appropriate for your 14- to 15-year-old age group. Critics note that ATVs with bigger engines undercut the mes­sages conveyed by safety training & warnings, increasing the likelihood of your child’s injuries.

Makers fight regulation.

In addition to making more powerful ATVs, ATV makers have fought any attempt to impose regulations. Whether on ATV ownership or use (such as age limits and mandatory helmet laws). With the expiration of the 1988 consent decree, it will take either new laws passed by Congress. Or perhaps even new action by federal agencies (like the Consumer Product Safety Commission) to force ATV manufacturers to pay more attention to your safety. Neither of these outcomes appears likely to happen anytime soon.

Sad to say, the only kind of regulation available to you is the “private” regulation that comes with lawsuits. Enough successful suits may convince ATV manufacturers that the cost of not planning for your safety is just too high.

If you or someone you know has been injured or killed while riding an ATV, contact us so that we can help protect your legal rights. Personal Injury lawyer Dan Street will only charge a fee if he wins your case.

The actual resolution of legal issues depends upon many factors, including variations of facts and Texas law. This alert blog is not intended to provide you with legal advice on specific subjects, but rather to provide you with insight into legal developments and issues. You should always consult with legal counsel before taking action on matters covered by this law alert blog.

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