Yamaha Rhino Deaths and Accidents Spark New Proposed Federal Standards

Following concerns about the number of serious injuries and deaths with Yamaha Rhinos and other recreational off-highway vehicles (ROV), the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) indicated Thursday that new safety standards will be enacted. The federal regulators published advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) to invite comments from the public about the risk of injury associated with these vehicles.

According to the statement released by the Commission, the proposed rules are designed to address problems with off-road vehicles that “may exhibit inadequate lateral stability, undesirable steering characteristics, and inadequate occupant protection during a rollover crash.”

Over the past year, the CPSC has been investigating and reviewing the safety problems with Yamaha Rhino vehicles and other similar vehicles, which are not currently regulated under existing ATV safety standards since they have steering wheel, as opposed to handle bars featured on recreational ATVs.

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It was reported in November 2008 that the CPSC was investigating the growing number of Yamaha Rhino deaths and accidents. The popular Rhino vehicles feature a steering wheel, two side-by-side bucket seats, four wheels and a flat bed, making them a cross between recreational ATV and larger utility vehicles (UTV). Out of the 116 reported ROV deaths since 2003, the Yamaha Rhino was involved in roughly half of the accidents or rollovers.

The CPSC rejected industry-proposed standards proposed by the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association (ROHVA), determining that they did not adequately address the risk of death and severe personal injury that can occur with ROV rollovers and collisions. CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum released a statement with the ANPR, saying that the commission needed to step in because manufacturers had failed to implement reasonable voluntary standards.

“The need for federal rulemaking on ROVs is the consequence of not having a voluntary standard that effectively safeguards consumers,” Tenenbaum said. “I have reviewed numerous death and injury reports tied to ROVs and I believe CPSC can play a vital role in making them safer.”

ROVs have risen in popularity since 2003, with more than 416,000 now in use in throughout the United States. According to the CPSC, that rising number has been accompanied by a substantial increase in accidents and deaths.

Earlier this year, the CPSC pressured Yamaha to suspend sales of the Yamaha Rhino 450, 660 and 700 models following a CPSC investigation into 46 occupant deaths, mainly due to Rhino rollover accidents. Despite Yamaha’s claims that driver error was to blame in most cases, the CPSC concluded that the vehicle was unstable and could roll over even on level ground at slow speeds.

There are currently more than 500 Yamaha Rhino injury lawsuits pending throughout the United States involving accidents and rollovers that were allegedly caused by the defective design of the ROV. The federal Yamaha Rhino rollover litigation is consolidated for pretrial proceedings in an MDL, or Multidistrict Litigation, before U.S. District Judge Jennifer B. Coffman in the Western District of Kentucky. The current scheduling order calls for the first federal Yamaha Rhino trial to begin in June 2010.

The CPSC indicates that the public has 60 days to provide comments on the proposed rulemaking. Comments can be submitted at www.regulations.gov.


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