OP/ED: Dealers, when it comes to ATV safety, lead by example


Specialty Vehicle Institute of America Members and Staff

All-terrain vehicle injuries are caused by decisions. Bad decisions.

Ninety-two percent of those who reportedly sustain fatal injuries while riding an ATV are engaging in at least one of the behaviors warned against on the vehicle labels, in the manuals and taught during free safety training. Ninety percent of youths injured on ATVs are riding adult-sized models.

This is why the mission of the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America and the ATV Safety Institute – to promote the safe and responsible use of ATVs – is so important. But there are many touch points with the consumer to promote safety, and it frequently starts at the retailer. So you have an important role in promoting the safe and responsible use of ATVs, and convincing buyers that their first ride should be in an ASI ATV RiderCourse.

For decades, the ATV industry has gone to unprecedented lengths to promote safety with its customers – through education and training, public service announcements, vehicle standards, and partnerships with youth organizations. Even as SVIA member companies invest millions of dollars each year to support these programs, and millions more to develop amazing products that are constantly improving, your role in promoting safety on the front lines of customer interaction is essential.

As a dealer principal, you’re an influencer. You’re in a unique position as an enthusiast and businessperson to shape behavior and promote good decisions. The dealership interaction is sometimes the last opportunity to encourage parents to make responsible and safe choices for their children.

You may be wondering what you can do, and the simple answer is to lead by example. Talk to your employees about safety. Learn about your products’ important safety features and the risks presented by bad decisions. Point out labels on adult-sized vehicles that contain important safety messages such as “Never operate the ATV if you are under age 16.”

Because of the turnover in sales forces, this should be a recurring topic. The more you reinforce your dealership’s commitment to safety, the more your employees will understand its importance. This, in turn, will be reflected in your employees’ interactions with customers.

Regarding safety, “practice what you preach.” Your customers are more willing to listen to those who have first-hand experience than those who simply memorize talking points. Take a hands-on, half-day ATV RiderCourse and the ATV Safety Institute’s new free E-Course. Encourage all of your employees, and your customers, to do the same.

Discuss safety whenever possible, and tell the good news about it – that industry and customers take care of themselves. Our industry has always been a community of people with a shared passion. The best way you can promote that passion to your customers is to demonstrate an industry-wide commitment to safely and responsibly enjoying our sport.

For more than 20 years, our message has been clear: The key to youth ATV safety is keeping kids off of adult-sized vehicles. All youth ATV riding should be on an appropriately sized youth ATV and actively supervised by responsible adults. Every youth’s first ride should be in the free hands-on ATV RiderCourse.

Constantly underscoring this enhanced focus on safety among your team and reinforcing it to showroom floor personnel is also critical, because, unfortunately, there are a few salespeople who may need this reinforcement.

Earlier this year, a U.S. Government Accountability Office investigation found seven of 10 dealerships willing to sell an adult-sized ATV for use by a rider under 16. SVIA recently was interviewed for a story on ABC News’ Nightline about youth injuries and fatalities on ATVs and the reporter focused on this point when interviewing SVIA Executive Vice President Paul Vitrano. Paul explained that such sales are contrary to dealer agreements with OEs, contrary to some state laws, contrary to everything our industry’s safety organizations advocate, and contrary to common sense.

However, perception is reality – especially when it’s played out on national television. The actions of a few sales people who don’t follow the rules can give an entire industry a bad image.

By showing an active interest in your customers’ safety, you, in turn, make your employees and the customers more focused on this important issue. Demonstrate that industry and riders can police themselves. This is the best way to prevent regulators from suggesting no one under 16 should ride any ATV, a bad policy with unintended consequences.

To get more information on the SVIA and the ASI, visit www.svia.org and www.atvsafety.org, or call 800-887-2887.

About the SVIA and the ASI

The Specialty Vehicle Institute of America promotes the safe and responsible use of all-terrain vehicles through rider training, public awareness campaigns and state legislation. Additionally, the SVIA works to preserve access to off-road lands and expand riding opportunities. The SVIA is a resource for ATV research, statistics and vehicle standards. Accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the SVIA develops standards for the equipment, configuration and performance requirements of ATVs.

Based in Irvine, Calif., the SVIA is a not-for-profit industry association sponsored by Arctic Cat, BRP, Honda, Kawasaki, KTM, KYMCO, Polaris, Suzuki, Tomberlin and Yamaha.

The All-Terrain Vehicle Safety Institute develops rider training programs and promotes the safe and responsible use of ATVs. The ASI works to reduce crashes and injuries resulting from improper ATV use. Formed in 1988, the ASI is a not-for-profit division of the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America. For safety information or to enroll in the ATV RiderCourse nearest you, visit www.atvsafety.org or call 800-887-2887.

posted by Dennis Johnson