OPP sets record straight on use of ATVs on Wellington roads

Get educated or it will cost you, was the message at a Jan. 20 information session on ATV safety presented by the Wellington Farm and Home Safety Association and the Wellington County OPP.

The information meeting, held at the Teviotdale OPP detachment, marked the launch of a campaign to create an awareness of safe use of all terrain vehicles (ATVs) – both on and off the road.

Organizers of the event were not expecting the capacity crowd of over 100 people that filled the meeting room and adjoining hallways.

Sergeant Steve Mihills, provincial trainer with the Snowmobile, ATV and Vessel Enforcement (SAVE) unit from the Orillia detachment of the OPP was guest speaker on ATV safety and enforcement.

The SAVE unit is committed to ensuring Ontario’s trails are safe places to enjoy the outdoors responsibly. Its mandate for ATVs includes:

– reducing injuries and deaths on the province’s trails;

– providing ATV operator training for OPP members; and

– supporting OPP detachment efforts with local concerns related to trail safety.

Mobile units target high-risk operator behavior on trails and enhance ongoing education and enforcement activities with additional patrols, education and enforcement.

Over half a million ATVs are in use in Ontario today, making it necessary to regulate the use of these motorized vehicles. Preventing ATV accidents and rollovers starts with smart riding and a clear understanding of hazards and safety precautions, police say.

Common ATV hazards include improper use of helmets, inadequate training or supervision, carrying passengers, instability of large loads, low pressure tires, ease of rollovers, poorly maintained equipment and older, unsafe ATV models.

Workplace Safety and Prevention Services states that ATV drivers must be properly trained in basic operation and safety. Drivers must climb hills in low gear with weight redistribution to prevent potential back flips.

Approved motorcycle helmets are required with eye protection and protective clothing and footwear are recommended.

Police say riders should never ride beyond their skill level, avoid going sideways across a slope to avoid tipping and be aware that alcohol and ATVs do not mix.

Last July, changes to the Highway Traffic Act included Ontario Regulation 316-03, which involves the use of the side of roads in Ontario where the governing body over the road has passed a bylaw permitting this use. Within Wellington County no bylaws have been instituted for this purpose to date.

Mapleton Mayor Neil Driscoll, in attendance at the information meeting, stated, “There have been discussions at Mapleton council meetings about creating these bylaws. It is to my understanding that Minto, Wellington North and Wellington County are all  considering their options, but are only in the discussion stage also.”

Mihills said, “Let me repeat that there are no roads in Wellington County that are under these bylaws. No ATVs are permitted on Wellington County roads, but there are exceptions included in the Highway Traffic Act. These include police, fire, ambulance, municipal, hydro, telephone, rail workers, farmers and licensed trappers.”

Farmers are permitted to drive ATVs on the shoulder or to the right hand side of the road as safely as possible in the same direction of traffic. The rules of the road are applicable to any motorized vehicle including ATVs.

Farmers must be in the act of farming, traveling from farm to farm or field to field for agricultural purposes.

“In other words you can’t drive to your local dealership for parts or visit a neighbour,” Mihills said.

“Everyone, and I mean everyone, who is permitted to drive an ATV on the road must be 16 years of age or older with a valid G2 or M2 license or greater. Motorcycle-styled helmets properly secured to the head are the law.

“Each ATV and driver must be licensed, registered, plated and insured. I can’t stress this enough. No exceptions.”

Education is a large part of Mihills’ role with the SAVE unit.

“I have come across many ATV owners who do not have the proper insurance for their machine. Many insurance companies are not knowledgeable in the area of ATV insurance,” Mihills stated.

“Do your research and get the right coverage as accidents can happen to anyone at any time.”

Operators can be fined $5,000 for operating an ATV without insurance. Additional fines can total an extra $1,000, Mihills explained.

When planning to operate an ATV outside of Wellington County, drivers should consult with the local municipality for any additional bylaws.

For more information on ATV safety, the Highway Traffic Act, or Regulation 316-03, go to ontario.ca/laws, ofatv.ca, katva.ca, otr.ca, ofsc.ca or municipal websites.