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By: Jason Giacchino
Email: offthepegs @ atvsource.com

June 2009 - Off The Pegs

Lead Into Trouble

Raptor 90 Blue
Yamaha Raptor 90 Blue

LT-Z50
Suzuki LT-Z50

Mongoose 70
KYMCO Mongoose 70

Boy! Oh boy, do you ever get the feeling that the ATV industry has a target painted on its back? Just last month I used my column space to discuss the disturbing trend of lawyers targeting UTVs for liability lawsuits (read: out-of-court big buck settlements), now the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has essentially banned all youth model quads here in the United States. After over a decade or so of flying below the radar, we suddenly find ourselves in the spotlight once more, and just like the last time (the three-wheeler debacle), it’s the responsible riders out there who end up getting the short end of the stick.

So, how did this latest disaster come about? The short answer is the sudden public panic associated with even the slightest traces of lead near children. Now, it’s not my job to either confirm or dismiss such scientific research. It should be noted that when I was a kid, we drank water from lead pipes, played with toys made of lead (and I don’t mean just in the paint), and were no worse for wear. However, and with noble intentions in mind, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 set out to address concerns directly by limiting the amount of lead-content in anything designed for children under 12 to 600 parts per million. The Act, of course, was written to protect children against lead traces found in the paint of Asian-imported toys. Be that as it may, things got especially ugly once the CPSC decided that the law should include youth ATVs and motorcycles!

Toys that can be placed in or around the mouth is one thing-- targeting the terminals of an ATV’s battery or valve stem is quite another. In truth, if there’s a serious risk of your child attempting to ingest his quad’s frame, carburetor, electrical connectors or battery terminals, perhaps lead poisoning isn’t the only area for concern.

The Act is particularly devastating for several reasons, the first of which is that it takes the parent’s ability to decide for themselves what’s okay for junior right out of the equation. Not only does it prohibit the sale of any new ATVs to buyers of any age, but it made it illegal for shops to even work on existing units!

Additionally, the sale of parts has been prohibited as well, so servicing your kid’s ATV is about to become nearly impossible even if you decide to do the work yourself. Now factor in the estimated $100 million worth of youth inventory that is, and will be, sitting in warehouses thanks to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act and the daunting reality of just how detrimental this decision will be to the OEMs starts to sink in.

Operating already at a 30 percent loss to prior years thanks to a shaky domestic economy, imagine what this new law will mean to the manufacturers, distributors, and sellers all around the globe. Conservative estimates put the dollar figure around $1 billion in annual economic loss due to the wording of the Act.

Then, finally there is the future to consider. After all, youth model ATVs and cycles are the stepping-stone to the teenage and adult riders of tomorrow. The long-term health and success of our industry is based heavily on the notion of family riding. Kids who start young are ten times more likely to grow into adults who continue to support the sport with their money, time, and passion. Taking away the ability for anyone under the age of 12 to enjoy the freedom and responsibility that comes with riding is quite honestly a lot like chopping down the sport at its knees.

Others still fear that all the law will do is force desperate parents into purchasing ATVs designed for operators older than their children as they will simply have no other choice. Telling junior he can no longer ride his quad due to lead is the fast path to forcing kids onto machines either too big, powerful, or difficult to handle. Sadly, once this starts happening, the number of reported injuries will climb and then we’re back to the liability issues again.

The bottom line is that my ranting and venting does little to make a difference, but together we have a much higher chance of getting this decision turned around. There’s power in numbers and even if, like me, you have no children of your own, I encourage you to email your state representatives as soon as possible. There’s also a site called MIC (http://www.mic.org) that acts as a hub for the people looking to have their voice heard on the matter. Time is already against us; and, as it stands, the future of our sport is in real jeopardy.


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