According to a story in the Wall Street Journal, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission(CPSC) has started an investigation into UTVs like the Yamaha Rhino and similar vehicles from other manufacturers. There have been 30 deaths reported involving the Rhino and the company has had more than 200 lawsuits filed against it related to the vehicle. There currently aren’t any safety standards for these type of vehicles because they are essentially a new class of vehicle. According to the article:
They aren’t subject to ATV safety standards because of design differences such as having a steering wheel, in contrast to the ATVs’ handlebars. But the novel off-road vehicles also aren’t subject to the much-tougher standards for cars. Owners of UTVs don’t have to register them.
“When there is no standard in place, we have to basically determine if there’s a substantial risk of injury and death, and there’s a hurdle there that has to be met,” says Jay Howell, acting assistant executive director of the CPSC’s office of hazard identification and reduction.
This is how consumer regulation often works: Products hit the market governed by no particular safety standards. If injury reports later arise concerning a product, these gradually get the attention of both manufacturers and regulators — often with a spur from lawyers for those injured.
Based on figures provided by Power Sports Marketing for the article, approximately 150,000 Rhinos have been sold since 2003. Yamaha incurred a charge of $136 million in 2007 related to potential product liability expenses. Last month, most of the leading manufacturers of UTVs (Arctic Cat, BRP, Honda, Kawasaki, Polaris, and Yamaha) started the Recreational Off Highway Vehicle Association which has put out a set of safety rules and received ANSI accreditation to develop standards for the vehicles which they now refer to as Recreational Off-highway Vehicles (ROV).