All-Terrain Vehicles:

How They Are Used, Crashes, and Sales of Adult-Sized Vehicles for Children's Use

GAO-10-418: Published: Apr 8, 2010. Publicly Released: Apr 8, 2010.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Susan A. Fleming
(202) 512-4431
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

All-terrain vehicles (ATV), which are off-road motorized vehicles, usually with four tires, a straddle seat for the operator, and handlebars for steering control, have become increasingly popular. However, ATV fatalities and injuries have increased over the last decade and are a matter of concern to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (Commission), which oversees ATV safety, and to others. Many ATV crashes involving children occur when they are riding adult-sized ATVs. Manufacturers and distributors have agreed to use their best efforts to prevent their dealers from selling adult-sized ATVs for use by children under the age of 16. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act requires GAO to report on (1) how ATVs are used and the advantages of their use and (2) the nature, extent, and costs of ATV crashes. GAO addressed these topics by reviewing ATV use and crash data and by discussing these issues with Commission staff, industry officials, user groups, and safety stakeholders.

ATVs are mainly used for recreation, but are also used in occupations such as farming and policing. According to a 2008 industry survey of ATV owners, 79 percent use them for recreation and 21 percent use them for work or chores. ATVs are also used as primary transportation in some remote communities, such as in parts of Alaska. GAO found little information that quantified the advantages of ATV use. However, users surveyed in 2008 said that riding provides them with personal enjoyment, allowing them, for example, to view nature and spend time with their families. In addition, trail managers and local business officials in areas of the country where trails have been established, such as West Virginia, said the surrounding communities have benefited economically from spending by ATV riders. Injuries and fatalities increased substantially during the last decade, but not as rapidly as the number of ATVs in use, which nearly tripled. According to Commission staff, an estimated 816 fatalities occurred in 2007-- the agency's most recent annual estimate--compared with 534 in 1999, a 53 percent increase. However, from 1999 through 2005--the most recent period for which fatality estimates are complete--the risk decreased from 1.4 deaths per 10,000 four-wheeled ATVs in use to 1.1 deaths per 10,000 ATVs in use, or 21 percent. Regarding injuries, an estimated 134,900 people were treated in emergency rooms for ATV-related injuries in 2008, compared with about 81,800 in 1999, a 65 percent increase. However, the estimated risk of an emergency room-treated injury per 10,000 four-wheeled ATVs in use decreased from 193 injuries per 10,000 four-wheeled ATVs in use to 129.7 injuries in 2008, or 33 percent. About one-fifth of the deaths and about one-third of the injuries involved children. Crashes involving children frequently occurred when they rode adult-sized ATVs, which are more difficult for them to handle. Manufacturers and distributors have agreed to use their best efforts to prevent their dealers from selling adult-sized ATVs for use by children, but recent GAO undercover checks of selected dealers in four states indicated that 7 of 10 were willing to sell an adult-sized ATV for use by children. Commission staff suspended similar checks in early 2008 because of higher priorities. Commission staff have estimated that the costs of ATV injuries and fatalities more than doubled during the last decade from about $10.7 billion in 1999 to $22.3 billion in 2007 (in 2009 dollars). Safety stakeholders, including industry officials, said that ATV injuries could be reduced through training and wearing proper equipment such as helmets.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To enhance the Consumer Product Safety Commission's oversight of ATV safety, the Commission should resume undercover checks of ATV dealers, focusing on new market entrants, which have not been tested, to assess dealers' willingness to sell adult-sized ATVs for use by children.

    Agency Affected: Consumer Product Safety Commission

    Status: Open

    Comments: Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) staff plan to resume undercover monitoring of all-terrain vehicle (ATV) dealers in the near future to check their willingness to sell adult-sized ATVs for use by children.

    Recommendation: To enhance the Consumer Product Safety Commission's oversight of ATV safety, the Commission should, when sufficient data are available, assess whether the size, power and weight of ATVs have increased in recent years and, if so, whether and how those increases correlate with the severity of injuries. Commission staff should consider the results of this assessment in the agency's future rulemaking on ATV safety issues.

    Agency Affected: Consumer Product Safety Commission

    Status: Open

    Comments: Although some data on all-terrain vehicle (ATV) power, size, and weight are not readily available, Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) staff plan to gather as much data as possible when they prepare a briefing package that will be sent to the Commission in the fall of 2011 regarding its open ATV rulemaking proceeding.

    Recommendation: To enhance the Consumer Product Safety Commission's oversight of ATV safety, the Commission should consider how the Commission's enforcement of the age recommendations can be strengthened and act accordingly. Options could include, but are not limited to, requiring ATV manufacturers and distributors to (1) provide more specific language about how they will enforce their dealers' compliance with the age recommendations and (2) make dealership agreements with dealers available for Commission staff to inspect how the agreements address the age recommendations. In addition, the Commission could consider making all of the action plans publicly available.

    Agency Affected: Consumer Product Safety Commission

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2010, GAO reported that all-terrain vehicle (ATV) fatalities and injuries involving children have been a significant problem over the last decade, and that crashes involving children frequently occur when they ride adult-sized ATVs. Although ATV manufacturers and distributors have agreed to prevent their dealers from selling adult-sized ATVs for use by children, noncompliance has been a persistent problem. To enhance the Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) oversight of ATV safety, GAO recommended that the Commission consider how its enforcement of the age restrictions could be strengthened, considering options such as requiring ATV manufacturers and distributors to (1) provide more specific language in their safety action plans--in which manufacturers and distributors describe how they will comply with the ATV industry standard--about how they will enforce their dealers' compliance with the age recommendations and (2) make their agreements with dealers available for Commission staff to inspect how the agreements address the age recommendations. In addition, GAO said the Commission should consider making public all of the action plans. In response to this recommendation, CPSC staff included more detailed dealer monitoring provisions in the three action plans that were negotiated and approved since the 2010 GAO report. CPSC staff also sought amended and more detailed dealer monitoring provisions for the 33 firms that received Commission approval of their action plans between August 14, 2008, and GAO's 2010 report. CPSC indicated that of the 33 firms, 22 executed enhanced dealer monitoring amendments, 3 are negotiating such amendments, 3 have left or are presumed to have left the ATV business, and CPSC staff are investigating 5 firms that did not respond. In addition, CPSC indicated that when appropriate, Commission staff request that manufacturers and dealers make their dealership agreements available as a part of inspection activities. CPSC has also posted on its Web site ATV action plans or letters of undertaking. These actions will enhance CPSC's oversight of ATV safety by strengthening its enforcement of the age restrictions regarding the sale of adult-size ATVs.

    Jul 23, 2014

    Jul 22, 2014

    Jul 21, 2014

    Jun 26, 2014

    Jun 20, 2014

    Jun 6, 2014

    Jun 4, 2014

    May 30, 2014

    Apr 24, 2014

    Apr 7, 2014

    Looking for more? Browse all our products here