The All-Terrain Vehicle Association has earned a major victory in its effort to convince federal safety experts that young riders should be allowed to ride ATVs that are the proper size for the child's body size.
In testimony to the Consumer Product Safety Commission over the past several years, the ATVA argued that current CPSC age guidelines limiting children under 16 to small ATVs prevented or discouraged youth from getting ATV-riding training.
That's because free training is offered by manufacturers to buyers of new ATVs, but only for family members who are of the "proper" age for the purchased ATV. In other words, if you buy an adult-size 300cc ATV, only those 16 and older are eligible for training. A child can be 5-foot-10, 180 pounds and be just weeks shy of 16 years old, but can't take the free training because children under 16 are limited to ATVs with engine displacements of 90cc or fewer.
In late May, the CPSC staff made recommendations to the full board to improve ATV safety nationwide, including rewriting the restrictive age guidelines "so that children under the age of 16 can ride and be trained on ATVs which are more likely to fit them physically and which conform to their developmental capabilities."
The staff report notes that formal training may reduce an ATV rider's risk of injury by half.
"This is great news," said ATVA Director Doug Morris. "The recommendation to the CPSC board by its ATV Safety Review team validates what we've been saying all along: that the guidelines must be changed so that as many kids as possible can get ATV safety training. And that will go a long way to reduce youth injuries."
The three-member board will review the staff recommendations in a public hearing at its Bethesda, Maryland, offices on June 15. It's part of an initiative to write new federal safety rules related to ATVs.
Besides suggesting changes in the CPSC's age guidelines, the staff recommends that all ATV buyers be given free safety training and information, and that smaller machines for use by riders under 16 should have automatic transmissions and speed limiters. ATVs for children ages 6 to 11 would have speed limits of 10 mph, while machines for children 12 to 15 would be limited to 15 mph.
The staff also recommends that ATVs sold in the United States should conform to uniform mechanical requirements for such things as brakes, suspension, controls and lighting.
This proposed rule-making is the result of a petition submitted to the CPSC by the Consumer Federation of America and other groups that called for the CPSC to ban the sale of full-size ATVs for use by children under the age of 16.
That potential ban has been opposed by Morris and American Motorcyclist Association/ATVA Legislative Affairs Specialist Royce Wood, who testified in a commission hearing on the issue. Rather than a blanket ban on the sale of ATVs for use by kids, the ATVA supports a more thoughtful approach that includes greater parental involvement.
"We believe that proper training, the use of safety gear, parental supervision, and allowing children to ride right-size vehicles would do much to reduce ATV-related injuries and deaths involving children under 16," Morris has repeatedly said.
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The ATVA, sister organization of the American Motorcyclist Association, is the only national organization devoted exclusively to fighting for the rights of ATVers. More members mean more clout to fight to protect your right to ride. To join the ATVA, call (800) ATVA-JOIN, or go to www.ATVAonline.com.