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Honda's Position on ATV Safety Disappoints State Prosecutors

November 18, 1987|LOUIS SAHAGUN | Times Staff Writer

Legal officials from 12 states expressed disappointment Tuesday with the results of a closed-door meeting with American Honda Inc. executives intended to reduce dangers associated with the company's all-terrain vehicles.

The meeting between representatives of a dozen state attorneys general and Honda executives was held Monday in Los Angeles and the company reportedly offered arguments and materials ranging from advertisements to technical data suggesting that the machines are essentially safe when operated properly, state officials said.

On Tuesday, the legal officials met among themselves "to talk about what they learned, review their options and begin considering what legal action is appropriate," said Duane Peterson, a spokesman for California Atty. Gen. John K. Van de Kamp. Van de Kamp did not attend either meeting, but sent several representatives.

"The meeting with Honda officials did not satisfy the prosecutors' concerns," Peterson said. "We just see the issues from entirely different vantage points."

Peterson said the National Assn. of Attorneys General was expected to make a formal statement about the meeting sometime before its next annual meeting Dec. 10 in San Diego.

Herschel Elkins, a California senior assistant attorney general based in Los Angeles, also said he was dissatisfied with what Honda had to say about the issue.

"They consider the problem to be the drivers and not the machines and were only willing to discuss some state legislation that would require helmets and training," Elkins said. "Their argument was not very convincing."

"That's complete news to us--they certainly didn't share those feelings with us," said Kurt Antonius, a spokesman for Gardena-based American Honda, which controls about 65% of the ATV market in the United States.

Antonius said that Honda was not planning to make any changes on its ATVs as a result of the meeting.

"There is no reason to as no agency has found a specific design defect with these machines," Antonius said. "Government statistics clearly point to environmental conditions and rider behavior as the cause of the accidents."

Safety groups have asserted that riders of three- and four-wheel ATVs can lose control and flip their machines when they strike ruts in roads, rocks or ditches. Injuries can also occur when inexperienced riders operate their machines in an unsafe manner. Since 1982, there have been an estimated 800 deaths and 300,000 injuries associated with the machines, federal safety experts have said. Half of the deaths were children 15 years of age and younger.

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