It’s going to take an act of Congress to bring dirtbikes, kid-size ATVs and similar motorized vehicles back into the legal sunlight. In the mean time, though, the CPSC has consented to let them venture back out into a half-legal and temporary twilight. That’s the upshot of the commission’s new pair of decisions, in which it’s 1) granting a temporary stay of enforcement on the vehicles, just as in February it granted such a temporary stay with respect to some of CPSIA’s most impractical testing obligations for manufacturers, while 2) refusing to accord the recreational vehicles an actual exemption from the law. Because of the latter refusal, sale and service of the vehicles will continue to be in violation of the law’s terms, and dealers and families will have to hope that the 50 state attorneys general agree to follow the federal agency’s lead in forbearing from enforcing the law for the time being. [Motorcycle Industry Council; StopTheBanNow.com; documents at "What's New" section of agency site]
Why this unsatisfactory half-relief, in the face of a continuing uproar against the ban? Acting chair Nancy Nord has said she believes a permanent exemption to be inconsistent with CPSIA’s terms, which forbid such exemptions unless manufacturers can proffer a scientific demonstration that leaving a class of products on the market will not result in “any” lead absorption or other public health risk. Her co-commissioner Thomas Moore, while as usual distancing himself from Nord and from critics of the law, reached the same conclusion, agreeing that the ban was risking safety problems by causing kids to get on bikes too large for them. [Washington Post] According to Rick Woldenberg, the industry submitted evidence that the lead exposure a child would experience from riding an ATV for between two and seven weeks would approximate the amount of naturally occurring lead in one (1) Coffee Nip candy (a perfectly legal confection). But “so infinitesimal as not to worry about” is not the same thing as “not any”, and no such legal distinction was recognized by the drafters of CPSIA, for whom the maxim “the dose makes the poison” would appear as mysterious as if written in, well, some sixteenth-century German book.
More on the political maneuvering and protests over the industry’s pleas for relief: KneeSlider, CycleTrader, ShopFloor (and more there). On protests, see RacerX Online, CALA (on Malcolm Smith protest). Missouri legislator Tom Self made a 10-day tour to Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky on behalf of lifting the ban [Covenant Zone]. No word on whether an April 23 protest rally set for Denver will go forward as scheduled.
Congress, of course, must act. Apropos of which, Covenant Zone has some further thoughts with which to close:
A sign of immaturity in children is when they fail to see the consequences of their actions; without a belief in the value of seeing the big picture, they would constantly snack on chocolate bars and coca-cola instead of fruits, vegetables and juice, they would stay up “past their bedtime” at the expense of a good night’s sleep and being refreshed for the next day, they would simply jump on a motorbike and ride instead of summoning the discipline to first learn about safety and maintenance, as well as the honesty required in understanding how to ride within one’s limits.
Sometimes I get the impression that the average kid who spends time in the great outdoors has more maturity, common sense and appreciation for the broad horizon of life’s Big Picture than does the average members of Congress, who don’t even read the bills they sign into law.