Jay, thank you for that kind introduction.
Good morning everyone. It is so great to see all of you. I know that many of you have travelled many hours to be here - from California, Oregon, Arkansas, Canada, and Australia. It means a lot to us here at CPSC that you could attend our Summit.
Our mission over the next two days needs to be clear. We must work together to come up with ideas and solutions that can save the lives of children and adults on ATVs.
This is an important moment for the ATV safety community - one that has been in the works for many years - and this is a moment that must be seized.
All of you can appreciate why I am putting this in such stark terms.
ATVs are the fourth deadliest product that we oversee at the CPSC. We oversee thousands of products, and ATVs are the fourth deadliest.
Let me share another number: 780. That was the number of estimated deaths related to ATV riding across the country in 2009.
780 lives lost. 780 families impacted.
When you log on to our website, ATVSafety.gov, you will see our estimate that 130,000 riders ended up being treated in hospital emergency rooms.
And we know that ATV riders who end up in the hospital are not typically undergoing treatment for minor injuries. In fact, some of the injuries are life altering.
For many communities in West Virginia, Kentucky, Texas, California, and other states, this is a public health dilemma.
So, what can we do over these next two days? What can we do to create a positive change?
I believe that we need to hear about new innovations in vehicle performance and if these innovations can make it to the marketplace.
We need to talk about why fewer riders are taking training courses and what we can do to encourage riders to take a hands-on course before they jump onto an ATV.
We all need to focus on getting young riders off of adult-sized models and keep passengers off single rider ATVs.
And we need to recognize the impact that YouTube can have on inexperienced riders who want to replicate the stunts they see on videos - videos that have received hundreds of thousands of views.
In June, I did an interview with the Today Show and talked about the foolish and dangerous behavior depicted in these videos, such as intentionally riding in the middle of traffic or riding straight up a steep sand dune.
The Today Show segment did a very good job of highlighting the risks associated with ATV riding and strategies to prevent incidents and injuries.
The prevention message was highlighted thanks to the excellent work of SVIA in their demonstration of an ASI training course.
And the risk associated with ATV riding was powerfully communicated in the segment by Carolyn Anderson.
Carolyn is here with us today, and I want to take a moment to read an excerpt of a story that she wrote about her son:
"I'll never forget the overwhelming love we felt when James was born on October 18th, 1989. He was a dream come true and continued to be a dream come true until the day he died on August 8th, 2004, at the age of 14 years...
James was by all accounts an exceptional child. His friend Mike wrote of him in a memory book. 'You taught me a lot, even if you didn't realize it. You taught me of life, of nature and of purity.' James was so happy, so gifted, so kind and honest...
The parent James was vacationing with made a decision that was fatal to my son. He turned a 700 pound, 500cc ATV that could travel highway speeds over to my child. That ATV crashed into a tree on a backwoods trail...
I never got to say goodbye to the child I love."
Carolyn and other parents whose children were taken too soon have powerful stories that need to be heard.
That is why James' mom and Kyle Rabe's mom and Sean Kearney's mom and dad are here.
I want to commend all of you for your courage and for turning tragedy into advocacy. I know that you are here to honor your sons and to make a difference at this Summit.
By working together, I believe we can make a difference. It won't be easy. I know how challenging it can be to advance the cause of ATV safety.
For many years, my home state of South Carolina was one of the few states that had no ATV safety rules.
Even though there were a number of tragic deaths in South Carolina involving young children who were held in the laps of their grandfather or father as they rode, the governor at the time vetoed safety legislation for three consecutive years.
Thankfully, Governor Haley signed Chandler's Law last summer and it is now in effect. The law is not quite as stringent as the ATV laws in other states, but it is a start.
Chandler's Law requires the use of safety equipment while riding, and it requires youth riders to participate in an ASI-approved training course.
There are many groups, such as the Children's Trust of South Carolina, that are working hard to make sure families know about the law and comply with it.
I truly hope state ATV laws, like Chandler's Law in South Carolina, result in a reduction in deaths and injuries nationwide.
I am aware that many of you have been involved in the legislative process at the national and state level, so I hope you will share your experiences and insights during the course of the Summit.
At CPSC, we have had a longstanding commitment to ATV safety. Since I have been Chairman, we have pursued a multitiered approach to making ATV riding safer:
- We have established dozens of Action Plans with manufacturers and importers.
- We have implemented, and are now enforcing, the SVIA/ANSI standard as a mandatory rule.
- We conduct marketplace surveillance.
- We operate ATVSafety.gov, which encourages riders to "take knowledge to the extreme" before they hit the trails.
- And, we have a rapid response media plan that is put into effect whenever there is a fatality in a particular community.
Some of the best minds and most respected researchers and experts in the field are in this room today. We are hopeful that this event will allow you to ask questions and form a dialog on concrete ways you and your organization can advance ATV safety.
This is open and participatory government at its best. So be part of the solution, by sharing your expertise with us.
In closing, I want to make sure everyone understands that we are not trying to take away ATVs. Rather, we are trying to make the riding experience safer and keep more riders alive.
Some of the ways to improve the safety of the rider experience require a lot of work, such as improving stability, opening up more dedicated trails, continuing to research vehicle dynamics and rider behavior, and encouraging more participation in training courses.
Other ways to make the riding experience safer require changes in rider behavior. We need to keep encouraging all riders - young and old - to follow the golden rules of ATV safety.
If the golden rules were followed, we would see an immediate and significant decline in the annual death and injury numbers.
We can do this. It will not be easy, but let's use the next two days to make a positive difference.
To Hope Nesteruk and the ATV Safety Team, thank you for all of your hard work in organizing this Summit.
And thank you to all of the speakers and participants who are here for the Summit. Let's seize the moment and save some lives.