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Fun and Death

January 05, 1988

Many people find all-terrain vehicles fun. With their balloon tires, big saddle seats and handlebars, the ATVs can be found bouncing and zooming over hills and sand dunes throughout the country. But many people also have found--the hard way--that all-terrain vehicles can be extremely dangerous. The three-wheeled variety is particularly unstable, and has been blamed by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission for an estimated 20 deaths and 7,000 injuries a month. Tragically, about half the deaths and injuries occur to children, who do not need licenses to operate the vehicles.

At last something has been done about this menace. Under a lawsuit settlement with the Justice Department and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the manufacturers have agreed to take three-wheeled ATVs off the market in this country. The ATV makers, of which Honda is the leader, also will send notices to all ATV owners warning them of the danger and offering instruction in the safe operation of the vehicles. While four-wheeled versions generally are more stable and less dangerous than the tripod variety, warnings of the hazards involved also will be issued to potential buyers of those.

Unfortunately, it has taken an estimated 900 deaths before action from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which has not been known during this Administration for its alacrity. And while many critics are not satisfied with the extent of the decision, at least the commission did move on this issue. Now, however, Congress should pass legislation to ban any future sales of the three-wheeled ATVs and take a careful look at possible restrictions on other ATVs if their safety records warrant.

Adult enthusiasts may resent restrictions on their all-terrain vehicles, contending that it's their choice if they want to engage in a "sport" that may kill them. That is no excuse, however, for sending children out on these motorized steeds to be killed and maimed.

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