The number of off highway vehicle (OHV) recalls has been steadily increasing over the past eight years with 2017 having the most recalls, according to a Consumer Federation of America (CFA) analysis. OHVs include all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs) and utility task vehicles (UTVs) and they are not toys – they are machines.
With preparation, practice and strict adherence to all rules, ATVs can be ridden safely for fun and function. However, sometimes these machines malfunction without any warning to the rider, causing serious injury or death. According to the CFA, from January 1, 2010 through October 31, 2017 a total of 68 recall notices were identified. The CFA analysis was based on Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) OHV recall reports.
In 2017 there were a total of 20 recalls which was the highest in a single year during the period analyzed. In 2011 there was one recall and in 2012 these recalls increased to nine, a nine-fold increase!
*January 2, 2017 – October 31, 2017
This is not to say people should stop riding OHVs, it’s just encouraging safe use and manufacturers must share the responsibility by producing safe equipment. There are no compromises when it comes to safety, so both riders and manufacturers must make this a top priority. By the way, it is worth remembering that riders under 16 must be supervised by an adult while riding. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) even recommends that no child under the age of 16 should ride an ATV of any size or description. One of the reasons the AAP makes this recommendation is because children can lack the weight, the physical strength and the developmental skills needed to operate a machine of such speed capability and weight. When this is combined with the possibility of machine malfunction the results could be catastrophic.
Also, AAP recently published a study showing that the MA law stating that children 14 and under cannot ride OHVs has had a positive effect. MA has had a decrease in childhood injuries and fatalities since the law was implemented. This Massachusetts law was named for 8-year-old Sean Kearney who died while riding an ATV during a playdate. His parents were unaware that he would be riding an ATV until they received the emergency call. Even if it feels socially awkward tell playdate parents that your child is not allowed, under any circumstances, to ride an OHV.
The top three hazards responsible for these recalls were broadly related to fuel, throttle and steering issues. Some of the fuel-related hazards include leaking fuel taps, fuel gauge problems and leaking fuel filters. Sometimes the throttle does not return to idle and the throttle cable has melted. Examples of the steering-related hazards include the steering shaft breaking and electronic power steering malfunction.
Injuries and deaths were involved in nearly one-third of these OHV recalls. One of the recent deaths in January 2017 involved the rollover of an OHV that was then recalled because it did not have seatbelts. This accident resulted in the death of a 14 year old passenger. Not all incidents involve death, many involved serious injury such as severe burns and serious leg injury. As a reminder to all riders, it is imperative to always wear the proper protective gear including, but not limited to, a Department of Transportation certified helmet.
Elisabeth Moore, MD/Emergency Room Physician at North Country Hospital in Newport VT was asked to comment on the OHV related injuries she sees in the Emergency Department, that may or may not be a direct result of machine malfunction. She said, “Pediatric trauma takes special consideration, and is very different from adult medicine. Kids are unique victims as their bodies are still growing. Bones are not developed yet, head circumference ratios are bigger, and blood filled organs fill a large portion of the torso. In a multi-trauma, such as an ATV accident, kids are more at risk for life threatening injury. When kids become injured they often compensate better than adults (both with vital signs and pain tolerance) leading medical providers astray- they are often not ill appearing until they are in real danger.”
Preventable injuries are the number one cause of childhood death in the United States. We can all work together to produce safe products, follow rules and take necessary precautions in order to give our kids a safe and exciting world in which to grow and thrive.