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CPSC Calls for ROV Safety Standards

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has called for mandatory safety rules to regulate recreational off-road vehicles (ROVs). The CPSC may take a tougher line on consumer safety issues under the Obama administration. A spokesman for the CPSC said that the agency’s five commissioners could vote on proceeding with the rulemaking as early as this week.

ROVs such as the Yamaha Rhino typically have four or more low-pressure tires and seat one or more. Relatively new to the market, they are intended for recreational use, and they have quickly become very popular. More than 416,000 ROVs were in use at the end of 2008, compared to 45,000 at the end of 2003. ROV accidents have surged in the past few years. Between 2003 and June of this year, 181 accidents, 152 injuries, and 116 deaths have been reported to the CPSC.

ROVs are not subject to the same safety standards set for all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) because of subtle differences in design. Safety standards for ATVs went into effect earlier this year after a federal product safety law enacted stricter standards for children’s toys and related products. The voluntary standards are set by industry experts and the CPSC.

Some consumer safety advocates have blamed the large number of ROV accidents and deaths on lax regulation. Some argue that young riders are allowed to drive ROVs that are too big and fast for their safety. Others say that some ROVs have design flaws that make them rollover too easily.

Yamaha suspended sales of its Rhino ROV in April and offered modifications to make them less prone to rollover accidents. This move followed a CPSC investigation of more than 50 Rhino rollover accidents that resulted in 46 consumer deaths. Over two-thirds of these cases involved rollovers. Many of the drivers and occupants were not wearing safety belts. In April, CPSC chairman Nancy Nord said that Yamaha Rhino owners should stop using the vehicles until safety modifications had been made.

It’s not yet clear what the safety rules for ROVs might entails, but the CPSC will likely focus on eliminating rollover problems. The CPSC staff wrote that ROVs “may exhibit inadequate lateral stability, undesirable steering characteristics, and inadequate occupant protection during a rollover crash.” Improved lateral stability and vehicle handling, along with improved protection for occupants, would help to reduce the number of rollover accident deaths.

Current CPSC chair Inez Tenenbaum has stated that the ROV Association’s proposed standards do not adequately address safety concerns and injury risks, and she has asked her staff to explore the possibility of rulemaking for ROVs. We should hear more about this developing story in the near future.

ROVs are popular in Georgia. Remember, these vehicles are not toys, and you should not let children play with them as if they are toys. ROVs have a tendency to flip over and seriously injure or kill the driver and occupants. If you or a loved one has been injured in an ROV accident, contact a Georgia personal injury lawyer to ask about your legal rights. Call MLN Law at 404-531-9700 to schedule a free consultation.