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Today, the Consumer Products Safety Commission urged owners of Yamaha Motor Corp.'s Rhino 450, 660 and 700 off-highway recreational vehicles to stop using them immediately until they are repaired by a dealer. The repairs include installation of a spacer on the rear wheels as well as the removal of the rear anti-sway bar. The aim is to reduce the Rhino's propensity to roll over. Because of that flaw, Rhinos have been subject of many lawsuits.

The CPSC staff has investigated more than 50 incidents involving an astounding 46 driver and passenger deaths. More than two-thirds involved rollovers. In addition, says CPSC spokesperson Scott Wolfson, there have been a significant number of injuries.

The Rhino is a utility terrain vehicle (UTV) that seats driver and passenger side-by-side. Unlike an ATV, it has a steering column, a roll cage, and seat belts. And, unlike ATVs, these vehicles are not required to meet any safety standards. In fact, there are no voluntary safety standards that cover UTVs. We urge RHOVA, the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association, to develop a comprehensive and effective safety standard as soon as possible to reduce further death and injury.

According to Jason Shamblin, an attorney from Birmingham, Alabama who represents victims of Rhino rollovers, this is Yamaha’s third attempt to address the injuries associated with its vehicles. In 2006, Yamaha sent out stickers that warned riders to keep their arms and legs inside the vehicle. In 2007, it offered a “silent recall,” not announced by the CPSC, that provided owners with free doors to help contain occupants. Today’s announcement, although not termed a recall, is in fact a large recall of some 120,000 450 and 660 models. In addition, 25,000 Rhino 700s are part of the repair program. (The Rhino 450 and 700 were recalled last year due to risk of brake failure.)

The takeaway: These are dangerous vehicles that must be driven with care and used with safety gear, including seat belts and helmets. If you have a 450, 660 or 700 Rhino model, heed the CPSC’s advice: Stop using it immediately and contact a Yamaha dealer now for a repair. (To find one, call 800-962-7926 or visit Yamaha's Web site.) But be aware that dealers may not be getting the repair kits for several weeks, so be patient.—Don Mays

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