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2009-04-16 digital edition

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2009-04-16 / General Stories

Sales of Yamaha's Rhino ATVs Suspended

440 Texans were killed in ATV accidents over 5 year period
Richard Stone

Late last month, Yamaha announced it would suspend sales of three different models of its popular Rhino off-road all terrain vehicles and address safety concerns with the more than 140,000 vehicles sold since 2003.

"It's about time," said Tim Cappolino, an attorney with the Texas law firm Cappolino Dodd Krebs and who is familiar with AVT injuries. "Yamaha has known from the beginning that the Rhino was dangerous, yet the company has refused to issue a recall."

Despite the clear evidence that the ATV was poorly designed, Cappolino said Yamaha continued to advertise and promote the Rhino as a durable, safe off-road vehicle.

"There have been several incidents with ATVs in Texas in recent months, at least one of them fatal," Cappolino said. He pointed out a recent Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) study that showed more than 440 Texans died and another 130,000 people were injured in ATV accidents between 2002 and 2007. "That's more than were killed in the previous 20 years," he said. "I know that these things are popular and more people are using them but they are dangerous."

Further, Cappolino noted, the study acknowledged its numbers were incomplete, especially for 2006 and 2007.

The CPSC said it has investigated more than 50 recent incidents involving the Yamaha Rhino, including 46 fatalities. More than two-thirds of the accidents were rollovers where drivers were ejected from the AVT. Many of those appeared to have occurred at relatively slow speeds and on level terrain.

"All ATVs are inherently dangerous," said Cappolino. "No repairs can be made them to change this fact. They weigh about half a ton and it's absurdly easy for them to roll over. When they roll, drivers lose arms and legs. Typically, drivers and passengers are thrown, then crushed."

In the press release announcing Yamaha's suspension, the CPSC said the recall affects three models: the 450, the 660 and the 700. The press release urges owners of these Rhinos to stop using them immediately and until repairs can be made.

Yamaha will install a spacer on the rear wheels and remove the rear anti-sway bar to help reduce the chance of rollovers and improve handling. Yamaha will also install half-doors and passenger handholds "... to help keep occupants' arms and legs inside the vehicle during a rollover."

Cappolino Dodd Krebs L.L.P. is a personal injury law firm with offices in Cameron and Port Lavaca.

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