March 31, 2009
Washington, D.C., March 31 -- The Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) call today for repairs and suspension of operations of Yamaha Rhino off-road recreational vehicles drew immediate praise from a group of safety advocates who less than a month ago, sent the agency a comprehensive analysis detailing the Rhino's hazards.
The CPSC's action is directed at fixing rollover-related safety defects in Rhino 450, 660, and 700 models. The defects are among those highlighted in the analysis, entitled "Citizen Report on UTV Vehicle Hazards." Yamaha advises that all use of the Rhino 450, 660, and 700 models be suspended until the repairs are made.
Today's action is "CPSC at its best," said Clarence Ditlow, the director of the Center for Auto Safety. "Hopefully this means that the CPSC intends to act vigorously in the future to lessen the designed-in hazards of ATV and UTV-type off-road vehicles."
The CPSC said its staff has investigated more than 50 incidents involving 46 driver and passenger deaths in these two Rhino models. "More than two-thirds of the cases involved rollovers and many involved unbelted occupants. Of the rollover-related deaths and hundreds of reported injuries, some of which were serious, many appear to involve turns at relatively low speeds and on level terrain," the agency said.
Signers of "Citizen Report," released February 27, included the Center for Auto Safety, the Trauma Foundation, parents of children killed or injured in Rhino rollovers, and Fabrice N. Vincent, an attorney with Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, the law firm that assisted in the report's preparation. Input came from experts in vehicle design, injury causation, and vehicle hazard identification.
"In addition to the 46 deaths, scores of adults, teenagers, and children across America have been left permanently disabled after their hands, arms, feet, and legs have been crushed in Yamaha Rhino accidents. Many of these injuries would not have occurred if Yamaha had incorporated readily available safety measures in the original design of the Rhino," noted attorney Vincent. "Yamaha's repair program is an important step in ending this ongoing national tragedy. However, Yamaha must acknowledge its legal responsibility to those that have been injured or killed and undertake additional key safety adjustments to fully protect consumers."
The CPSC says that Yamaha must make the following fixes to the vehicle's safety defects – fixes included in the ones called for by the "Citizen Report":
Reducing the propensity for rollover by installing a spacer on the rear wheels and removing the vehicle's rear anti-sway bar, which will also improve vehicle handling.
To reduce partial or full occupant ejection in rollovers, installation of half doors and additional passenger handholds where these features have not been previously installed under an earlier, inadequate "voluntary" retrofit program. These fixes will help keep occupants' arms and legs inside the vehicle during a rollover, thus reducing injuries.
"Citizen Report" noted that while the Yamaha Rhino's hazards need immediate correction, other UTVs have similar defects. In addition to those targeted in the CPSC's Rhino action, the following were proposed:
Minimum Occupant Containment Standards: Tests to ensure adequate occupant containment in rollovers, as a basis for standards to be met by all UTV vehicles prior to sale. Partial or full doors, roll cage cushions, and netting would be required to meet the standard.
Effective Seat Belt Restraint Systems: Seat belt compliance with federal motor vehicle safety standards to ensure that belts restrain the UTV occupants in rollovers. The report noted that a large number of UTV fatalities and injuries appear to be associated with deficient belt performance.
Redesigned Roll Cages with Roll Cage Padding: Locating roll bars and roll cages further away from the occupants, re-designing them with minimal crush points, and adding padding. "UTV occupants can be fatally or catastrophically injured when struck by the vehicle's heavy, unpadded steel roll cage," the report states.
Improved Stability and Handling: Establishing stability and handling standards, including minimum resistance to rollover, for UTV vehicles in order to substantially reduce the likelihood of tip-over accidents.
Source | Contact
Fabrice N. Vincent
Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP