All terrain vehicles, or "ATVs" were first designed in the late 1960s by Honda. The first ATV was sold in the United States in 1971. This began an era of great popularity for the ATV. The first ATVs were designed in a three wheel tricycle-like configuration. Such design was the industry standard until the late 1980s.
Shortly after Honda's first ATV was released, other manufacturers introduced competing vehicles. These included products launched by Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki. The American market for ATVs was exploding; unfortunately, the increased popularity of the vehicles brought an alarming number of ATV accidents. This increase prompted the United States Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) to launch an investigation into the safety of ATVs. In 1986 the CPSC issued a report in which the agency determined that there were approximately 2.4 million ATVs in use throughout the United States. The CPSC estimates that from 1982 to 2002, 5,239 people died
associated with ATV use.
Shortly after the CPSC report was issued, the United States Justice Department filed a lawsuit
alleging that ATVs and their manufacturers violated the Consumer Product Safety Act. In 1987 the various ATV manufacturers agreed to discontinue producing three-wheeled ATVs. Experts have cited the three-wheel ATV design as one of the primary flaws of the original ATVs. Today's ATVs manufacturers utilize a four-wheel design that assists in stabilizing the vehicle.
Unfortunately, the 1987 agreement to halt production of the three-wheeled ATV did not require manufacturers to recall the over 2.4 million defective ATVs already sold throughout the country. Many of these extremely dangerous ATVs remain in use today.
A 2004 article published by the Wall Street Journal revealed alarming statistics regarding deaths and injuries linked to ATV use. According to the report, while sales of ATVs rose nearly 90 percent between 1997 and 2002, ATV-related deaths increased 67 percent during the same period. Over 110,000 riders were injured in 2002. Since 1992, children under the age of 16 have accounted for a third of ATV-related injuries. Over the last 12 years, children under 12 represent 14 percent of ATV deaths.
Unfortunately, there is little state regulation. Forty states do not require a driver's license to operate an ATV and over 30 allow 12-year-olds to drive the vehicles. In West Virginia, which averages 15 ATV deaths a year, legislation has failed to pass for the last seven years.
If you have been injured by an ATV it may be important to contact an attorney
who can help you protect your legal rights. Please keep in mind that there may be time limits
within which you must commence suit.
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