Yamaha’s Rhino UTV–Unstable Design or Unsafe for Consumers?
September 2, 2009 — Since its introduction in 2003, Yamaha’s Rhino UTV (Utility Terrain Vehicle) was an instant hit amongst the ATV (All-Terrain Vehicle) crowd, selling more than 150,000 units. With side by side seating, a small utility bed and the ability to be loaded into the bed of a full-size truck, it helped define a market segment for people that wanted extra ‘utility’ from their off-road vehicles. Unfortunately, some of the design considerations for the Rhino may have greatly increased the risk of injury and ultimately contributed to the large number of reported injuries and deaths suffered by users.
Narrow Track Width and High Center of Gravity–the Effects on Rhino Stability
In 1980, a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reported that top-heavy passenger utility vehicles were involved in rollover incidents five times the rate of passenger cars. In assessing a vehicle’s resistance to rollover, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) utilizes the Static Stability Factor (SSF) as a measurement of a vehicle’s resistance to rollover. A simple and objective calculation of the vehicles track width divided by two times the height of the center of gravity equals SSF.
The average SSF for 2003 passenger cars is 1.41; 1.17 for SUVs and 1.24 for minivans. The Yamaha Rhino, with its narrow track width and off-road ground clearance, has an SSF of 0.88–one of the lowest SSF‘s ever measured–making it one of the most unstable vehicles ever sold.
Unlike passenger vehicles that travel on smooth roadways, the Rhino is advertised and marketed for off-road use on uneven terrain. But on flat surfaces the Rhino has shown that it can easily roll over from steering inputs at low levels of acceleration. Combine inherent instability and it’s intended off-road use, the Rhino is unusually unpredictable and difficult to operate safely.
Lack of Doors or Functional Restraints Contribute to Occupant Injuries
The Rhino was sold without doors, lacking any kind of arm restraints and seat belts that have emergency locking retractors that are sensitive only to vehicle acceleration. In a rollover situation, seat belts fail to lock, leading to partial ejection of the occupant. Without doors or arm restraints, there is nothing to contain the occupant in the event of a rollover–which subjects occupants to the crushing weight of the Rhino itself. The Rhino’s lack of safety equipment, in conjunction with poor driving dynamics, has contributed to numerous injuries and deaths.
To date, over 59 people have died and an unknown number have been hurt due to the Rhino’s unpredictable handling. Some have lost appendages, others require numerous surgeries to keep severely mangled arms and legs. Over 400 personal injury lawsuits have been filed against Yamaha over the Rhino, which they maintain (in a statement to CBS News): The Rhino “…is a safe, reliable and versatile vehicle….” and “…has won virtually every ‘first-in-class award’ and top safety ratings… and that the vehicles have been tested for thousands of hours and perform with a high level of customer satisfaction.”
Injured in a Yamaha Rhino Accident? Brayton Purcell Can Help
Brayton Purcell has over 25 years experience advocating for the rights of consumers, and holding those accountable for unnecessarily putting the health and safety of the general public at risk. We are currently evaluating potential cases where consumers were injured by the Yamaha Rhino UTV. If you have been injured and would like to discuss your legal options, please contact us with your questions.