The Consumer Product Safety Commission and Yamaha Motor Corp USA have announced a “free repair” program of approximately 120,000 off-highway recreational vehicles. This program refers to the Rhino 660, the Rhino 700, and the Rhino 450. The purpose of this free repair service is to make some modifications to the all-terrain vehicles to minimize the chances of a rollover accident happening.
While some media sources are calling this repair program a recall, Yamaha has been quick to say that this is not an official recall. Either way, there have been over 50 incidents resulting in 46 fatalities to both drivers and passengers, as well as hundreds of injuries, since the vehicles were first distributed in 2003.
Over 2/3rds of the accidents involved rollover crashes. The CPSC says that many of the rollover accidents took place when the driver was turning the two-passenger vehicles on level ground and moving at a slow speed. In certain cases, the rider who was injured or killed may not have been using a safety belt.
Although the off-road vehicles are supposed to be driven only by people 16 years of age or older that have actual driver’s licenses, some of the deaths involved younger people who were either riding or operating the vehicles against the manufacturer’s recommendation.
The repairs are intended to improve handling, better contain the riders’ limbs within the vehicles, and reduce rollover accidents. A rear wheel spacer will be installed and a rear-anti-sway bar will be taken off. Yamaha vehicles that have yet to be sold will also be repaired.
Injuries related to these Yamahas have been known to be severe. One girl lost her arm in an ATV accident two years ago when she was on a Rhino. Other Rhino-related injuries have included crushed bones, broken bones, damaged muscles, and death.
The Yamaha Rhino is a cross between a utility vehicle and a smaller ATV. Its design seems to cause a number of stability issues. It doesn’t help that this vehicle doesn’t have to adhere to the safety standards that typical ATV’s have to abide by because it comes with a steering wheel and not handle bars.
Although consumers must listen to manufacturer warnings and operate their all-terrain vehicle as intended, it is also the responsibility of the off-road vehicle manufacturer to make sure that their vehicles are designed in a manner that is free from any inherent defects that could cause injury or death. To date, there have been approximately 200 personal injury lawsuits filed against Yamaha, which maintains that many of the injuries and deaths occurred because of improper operation and the failure to use safety equipment. Yamaha has, however, settled some of the products liability lawsuits against it.
Yamaha Motor Corp. Offers Free Repair For 450, 660, and 700 Model Rhino Vehicles, CPSC, March 31, 2009
Off-road vehicles recalled after 46 deaths, Los Angeles Times, March 31, 2009
Yamaha off-road vehicles linked to deaths-US govt, Reuters, March 31, 2009
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