by Victor Wanchena
It’s rare that a topic winds me up enough to write my elected officials. The ban on children’s motorcycles has me that wound up. If you haven’t seen the news stories, here’s the Cliff’s Notes version of what happened. In 2008, the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) was passed in Congress. This bill was in response to children’s toys found to contain high levels of lead. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with oversight of the legislation. In the CPSIA is language that limits the amount of lead in all youth products to 600 parts-per-million (ppm). The CPSC has interpreted this to include youth motorcycles and ATVs. Consequently, dealers and manufacturers can no longer sell motorcycles intended for youth 13 and younger. Additionally, they can no longer sell parts for those machines, except for routine maintenance parts.
Lest you think me heartless, I am pro-safe toys for children. High levels of lead in something a child might ingest or chew on is not safe. But I have yet to see a kid in the garage gnawing on a battery terminal or cable end. This is an unreasonable application of what could have been a reasonable law.
Lead is a natural element that is all around us. A little research on the subject showed that the most common source of exposure is dirt. Yep, dirt, the stuff covering your backyard. We’ve reduced the amount of lead we’re exposed to by removing lead from gasoline and limiting it in paint. But don’t think that makes the world lead-free, it still naturally occurs in a variety of forms.
The rush to protect us from ourselves is frightening. I’ll say it again: safe toys are good, but this is way beyond safe toys. We’re not talking about Billy’s First Bag of Broken Glass; these are legitimate recreational products. And beyond that, the hap-hazard application of this law by the CPSC during a time of economic instability is deplorable. The ridiculous extent that this bill has been taken to caught everyone by surprise. The dealers and factory reps I have spoken with all echoed the same sentiment; if they’d known, they would have fought for sensible application of the law.
To spill a little secret, motorcycles contain all sorts of hazardous materials; Gasoline, oil and brake fluid, to name a few. A reasonable person knows that these materials are hazardous and, if used incorrectly, can cause injury. For example, don’t drink the gasoline. You will get sick. Don’t smear brake fluid in your eyes; it will sting. Don’t drive off a cliff, the landing will hurt. These are all cautions a reasonable person knows and teaches their children.
A couple years ago a major motorcycle maker came out with an off-road safety campaign called “Stupid Hurts”. It was simple and to the point: if you do foolish things, you will get hurt. If we don’t teach the next generation what’s right and what’s wrong, they will get hurt too.
If you think the CPSC needs to correct this major flaw in their application of this law, please contact them at 800-638-2772 or www.CPSC.gov as well as contacting your elected representatives.