Describing the recent preliminary agreement between the government and manufacturers of all-terrain vehicles as "woefully deficient" and a "debacle," parents, members of Congress, doctors and consumer advocates yesterday called for stronger action to protect consumers from ATVs.
The statements, at a House commerce, consumer and monetary affairs subcommittee hearing, were the latest in a protest that has arisen in the past four weeks, since the Consumer Product Safety Commission gave preliminary approval to an agreement to ban sales of three-wheel ATVs and to order vehicle manufacturers to send warning letters to the 2.3 million ATV owners.
Critics of the CPSC action argue that the agency did not go nearly far enough to deal with the hazards presented by ATVs.
With the too-calm look of a man still in shock, James J. McFadden of Omaha testified that his 8-year-old son, Joseph, died just 12 days ago from head injuries after he was run down by a three-wheel ATV on an Iowa ski slope.
"I am afraid nothing has been done by the Justice Department, or yet done by the Congress, to prevent further accidents like the one to my son," McFadden said.
The vehicles, with large wheels and high-powered engines, have accounted for nearly 900 deaths and 330,000 injuries requiring hospitalization since 1982. More than half the 900 killed were younger than 16.
Critics have called the settlement reached between the CPSC and the manufacturers on Dec. 30 "a sellout," citing the fact that the firms already had planned to stop making the vehicles this year. They also say the agreement has no provision for consumer refunds.
At the hearing, CPSC Chairman Terrence M. Scanlon and Commissioner Carol G. Dawson said they voted for the agreement because the Justice Department had told them it was the best settlement they could get and because they wanted to avoid what could have been years of costly litigation.
Sen. Alphonse M. D'Amato (R-N.Y.) and Rep. James J. Florio (D-N.J.) have introduced legislation to ban the sale of new or used three-wheel vehicles and provide for refunds.