We have written in previous issues about how dangerous the Yamaha Rhino is and now federal safety regulators are investigating the Rhino. This comes after reports of some 30 deaths involving the Rhino, including those of two young girls in November. Our product liability lawyers are convinced that the Rhino’s design is unsafe and that the vehicle is very dangerous. Currently, Yamaha faces more than 200 lawsuits in state and federal courts. Yamaha has settled some lawsuits, but recently said it may start to fight rather than settle cases. Yamaha stands behind the design of the Rhino, a two-seat vehicle that looks sort of like a cross between a golf cart and all-terrain vehicle.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, its investigation of this type of vehicle, which it calls a utility terrain vehicle (UTV), was prompted by various factors, including the high number of accident reports and lawsuits. In any event, the Rhino is at the center of its investigation. There are no regulatory standards for this new breed of off-road vehicles. They aren’t subject to ATV safety standards because of design differences such as having a steering wheel, in contrast to an ATVs’ handlebars. Neither are these new off-road vehicles subject to the safety standards for cars. Owners of UTVs don’t have to register them. Jay Howell, acting assistant executive director of the CPSC’s Office of Hazard Identification and Reduction, made this interesting statement:
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.
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. Many times lawsuits bring about a belated movement on the part of the federal government to look into safety hazards. It’s uncertain what will come from the CPSC inquiry.
The first Rhino came out in 2003. Yamaha designed the vehicles, now costing about $11,000, to offer aging ATV owners something with the comfort of a golf cart or minicar but the excitement of an ATV. The vehicles have bucket seats. Until this year, doors weren’t standard equipment on them. At 54.4 inches wide, the Rhino is narrower than all but one major competitor. The Rhino’s combination of design factors, including its narrowness and height, raises its risk of tipping over. Interestingly, one competitor markets a model by saying it has a lower center of gravity than the Rhino. If you want more information relating to Rhino problems, contact Mike Andrews or Cole Portis with our firm at 800-898-2034.
Source: Wall Street Journal
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