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Off-Road Vehicle Rules Remain U.S. Priority, Consumer Safety Chief Says

A bid by makers of recreational off- road vehicles to beef up safety won’t deter the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission from pursuing a plan proposed nine months ago to write rules, Chairman Inez Tenenbaum said.

“It concerned me then, and it concerns me now, that there were no standards for ROVs,” Tenenbaum, a Democrat, said yesterday at a meeting with representatives of Yamaha Motor Co., Polaris Industries Inc., Arctic Cat Inc. and Bombardier Recreational Products Inc. “News accounts and investigations of rollovers and incidents have not stopped.” The U.S. has reported at least 268 deaths and injuries since 2003.

Manufacturers are requiring that helmets and three-point seat belts be used as part of the industry’s effort to improve safety, said Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association Chairman Jan Rintamaki, who met Tenenbaum.

More stringent requirements will be adopted, such as a rollover test and steps to keep passengers’ limbs confined. A safety course was posted today on the Irvine, California-based group’s website, he said.

The CPSC said last year it had started drafting regulations for the design of recreational vehicles such as the Yamaha Rhino, a two-seat machine the size of a golf cart designed to travel on wilderness trails.

The industry failed to come up with adequate designs, the agency said in an Oct. 28 Federal Register notice. Regulators tallied at least 116 fatalities and 152 injuries in recreational off-road vehicles from January 2003 through August 2009. Thirty- seven children were among the deaths, CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson said in an interview.

Crushed Limbs, Amputations

The agency said action was needed because of the severe nature of the injuries, including crushed limbs, flesh torn from bones and amputations.

The industry will continue to work on voluntary standards stringent enough for the agency to endorse or adopt, said Paul Vitrano, executive vice president of the industry group.

“We want to come up with a product that they can support,” Vitrano said.

CPSC staff is working with the U.S. Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground to design a test to determine how prone vehicles are to rollovers, Tenenbaum said today. Rintamaki said the industry has been unable to identify a scientifically valid, repeatable test that replicates off-road conditions and vowed to find one.

“We have to be convinced that everybody, including ourselves, has pushed safety to the absolute maximum it can be pushed to so we can all sleep at night,” said CPSC Commissioner Robert Adler, a Democrat who took part in the meeting.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Plungis in Washington at jplungis@bloomberg.net.

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