A new Consumer Product Safety Commission report on deaths and injuries from all-terrain vehicles is sure to heighten the discussion about what regulation is appropriate for the vehicles that are so popular in Alaska and elsewhere in the country.
The commission, in a statement last Thursday, said its report finds that the death rate from ATV accidents continues to rise. The report finds that commission staff members estimate 698 deaths nationwide since December 2001 can be associated with ATV use. From 1982 to 2002, 5,239 people died from ATV use, according to the commission.
What do these numbers mean for Alaskans?
Foremost, they mean that ATVs are not toys and should be driven with appropriate respect for their power.
The numbers also call attention to the commission's hearings on ATV use. The commission has been holding meetings around the country to learn how Americans use their ATVs and what safety issues they find. The commission held a hearing in Anchorage earlier this year and came to Fairbanks on short notice.
The commission is also considering a petition by consumer groups to ban the sale of adult-sized four-wheelers for use by children under age 16. The latest report finds that children under age 16 suffered 37,100 injuries in 2002, up from 34,300 in 2001. Those numbers appear to lend weight to the proposed ban by safety groups, who say a long-standing agreement between manufacturers, dealers and the commission on recommendations for appropriate use of ATVs has failed to reduce the death and injury rates.
The core question is this: Who should be held responsible when a rider ignores warnings provided by the manufacturers and the commission itself? The answer could lead to government regulation of an item that many people rely on.
Four-wheelers are a part of life, often daily, for many Alaskans adults and children. That's why it's important to pay attention to what the Consumer Product Safety Commission does on this issue.
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner - Oct. 31
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