New Standards Wanted for Yamaha Rhino, Other ROVs

Off-highway and off-road vehicles are involved in hundreds of accidents every year and we have been following this issue for some time. Now, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is recommending it set mandatory rules to “regulate recreational off-highway vehicles,” such as the <"">Yamaha Rhino.

The move anticipates regulators stepping up some consumer safety issues under President Obama, who has called for increased consumer protections since he was sworn into office. The five agency commissioners, who just received a written recommendation, are mandated to now propose a rulemaking, which must be in place prior to rule implementation, said the Journal. A vote on the rulemaking could take place as early as next Wednesday.

Off-highway vehicles, or ROVs, are typically outfitted with at least four low-pressure tires and seat at least one person, said the Journal. ROVs are generally meant for recreation and are new to the market but have been a huge seller with over 416,000 in use at year-end 2008, said the Journal. In 2003, less than 45,000 ROVs were in use. With the rise in sales, however, came a correlative increase in ROV accidents with 181 taking place since 2003 and until this August with 152 injuries and 116 fatalities, said the Journal, citing CPSC data.

Of concern is that ROVs are not required to follow the same safety standards that are in place for ATVs—all-terrain vehicles—which have been on the market longer, said the Journal, due to some specific differences in the design of the two vehicle types. But even ATVs with their more stringent safety standards still have their problems and can be very dangerous vehicles, even in the best of circumstances. According to data collected by the CPSC, ATVs killed more than 500 people in 2006 and of those victims, nearly one in five was a child. In addition to ATV deaths, accidents involving these vehicles sent 146,600 people to hospital emergency rooms that same year.

ATV standards, which were previously voluntary, became mandatory in 2009 following implementation of the recent broad federal product safety law, said Reuters. The law focused on children’s toys and products among other popular items. While most products follow industry standard guidelines, which are voluntary, the CPSC will mandate standards for those products the have proven to create significant hazards to consumers, explained Reuters. By mandating these standards, regulators can respond to issues such as recalls, quicker.

Poor design and regulation have both been blamed for the rising toll on ROV rider injury and death with speed, the large size of the vehicles, and their propensity to rollovers, among cited problems said Reuters. And, while advocates blame industry and government, industry argues that consumers are operating the vehicles recklessly and the vehicles are safe when used properly.

Recreational vehicles, such as the Yamaha Rhino, have been linked to a high number of accident and death reports, as well as the high number of product liability suits. Critics allege the Yamaha Rhino is even more likely to be involved in deadly rollover accidents, saying that the Rhino is top heavy, and has tires that are extremely narrow. Allegedly, these design defects make it far more likely that the Yamaha Rhino will tip and rollover while going through a turn, even when the vehicle is traveling at a slow speed and is on a flat surface. These critics also charge Yamaha Rhino is designed in such a way that passengers’ legs are unprotected in the event of a rollover accident. Over 100,000 Rhinos have been recalled over design defect issues.

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