Safety first -- in sales, too

Publish Date: 
Jul 25, 2012
By Mary Slepicka

I LOVE ATV RIDING. Love, love, love it. I don’t care whether it’s a Honda or a Yamaha or a KYMCO. And even though I am 30 (okay, 35) years past qualifying for any X-Game, give me my gear and a good trail to ride, and I’ll… see… you… later. I’m not going to ride fast, I’m not going to climb steep sand dunes. But I’m going to be out there until the tank’s empty.

So it’s always deflating to turn on the TV at night and be reminded that children are dying on ATVs.

It’s a story that resurfaces every now and then, usually at the start of off-road riding season or when the number of deaths and injuries that season reaches a level deemed worthy of media coverage. One can say it’s an attack on the industry, but for the most part it is a reminder that manufacturers and dealers need to do their part to promote safe riding habits.

Probably most ATV accidents involving adults are caused by bad behaviors — drinking and riding, riding two-up on a vehicle made for one, riding off-trail, riding without proper protective gear, and so on. You can shake your head and say, “You can’t fix stupid,” but I don’t believe that to be the point. In this day and age, with all of the information that’s out there, bad riding behavior is evidence of pure carelessness, plain and simple.

But then there’s the kid issue. It’s no secret that the ATV industry has come under fire in recent years from consumer groups, local and national media, and even federal regulators for selling units that may be too big for certain riding groups, namely those under 16. Thousands of ATV accidents involving children have occurred while the youths were riding adult-sized quads that were simply too big, too fast and too powerful for riders under 16 (or 12) to command. Sure, some of it has to do with carelessness, but we have to acknowledge that there are thousands of young people out there working farmland or the range using the family’s ATV or side-by-side.

You can’t control what your customer is going to do once he or she trailers that quad off your parking lot. But if you have any knowledge that the vehicle will be used improperly, even if Dad says it’s going to be a family vehicle, well then — that’s a different story.

“Improper sales practices by dealer staff nationwide have been the focus of embarrassing investigations by the media and by the Consumer Product Safety Commission,” said Lee Durlach, managing editor-communications for ASI, a division of the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America (SVIA). “Far too often, salespeople have been caught, sometimes on-camera, being willing to sell an adult ATV even when the intended use of that ATV is clearly for a child.”