Where are Polaris ATVs made?
Nearly a decade ago, doctors in Nova Scotia thought they had found a way to protect children from being injured or killed on all-terrain vehicles.
The Canadian province banned children younger than 14 from operating any kind of ATV almost everywhere. The following year, the number of children hospitalized with injuries from ATV riding plummeted by half.
But today, the celebrating is over.
The region’s premier trauma unit treated nearly as many children this year for ATV-related injuries as it did the year before the 2005 ban took place. Dr. Natalie Yanchar, who led the campaign to get kids off ATVs, said the initiative didn’t go far enough because families eventually went back to their old riding habits.
“Nothing is going to change unless we start changing the vehicles, ” said Yanchar, trauma surgeon at IWK Health Centre in Halifax.
Yanchar and other doctors are hoping ATV manufacturers will pursue design changes that would make ATVs safer, either voluntarily or through mandates from the U.S. government. Over the past decade, however, federal regulators and safety advocates have sought improvements that have gone largely nowhere, including seat belts and roll bars that are found on other recreational vehicles.
Every year, thousands of people are hurt or killed in ATV crashes across the country. Federal regulators and engineers who have studied the accidents say injury risks could be dramatically reduced with modest changes to design.
Some large models, for example, have seats so close to the controls that even a toddler can reach them. In 2012, a 3-year-old boy from North Branch, Minn., grabbed the throttle of an ATV while sitting on it with his two sisters. The ATV surged across a road and smashed into the side of a tool-and-die plant, breaking the boy’s arm and fracturing the skull of his 6-year-old sister.
“You can’t make them childproof, but we can make the vehicles substantially safer, ” said California engineer Randy Nelson, who has designed ATV parts and accessories for decades. “And you could do it without spending a lot of money.”
Though it has the authority to order design changes, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission negotiated agreements with the ATV industry over the past eight years that softened or eliminated at least 41 safety improvements the agency had sought, according to commission documents.
“We really have to come to grips with the design of the machines, ” said Robert Adler, a commissioner with the safety agency.
ATV companies have argued that such improvements aren’t necessary. The key to ATV safety is for people to follow all of the industry warnings and guidelines, according to Polaris Industries, which is based in Medina and is the No. 1 ATV maker in North America.
“The most important piece of safety equipment that goes on any of our vehicles resides between the ears of the operator, ” said Mike Trihey, the company’s senior off-road vehicle testing manager.