By: Korie Marshall
New legislation in BC for off-road-vehicles was passed in March, and regulations are currently under development, with most expected to be introduced this fall. In the meantime, Northern Health is warning residents of the dangers of ATVs, especially for children and young men.
Northern Health has a higher rate of ATV related injuries than all other BC health authorities combined, says Lynette Hewitt, Injury Prevention Coordinator for Northern Health. She says they are not trying to stop people from riding ATV’s, but to encourage them to ride safely.
“We simply want to encourage people to know the risks involved and to take steps to minimize them, especially for children and youth,” Hewitt says. She says ATV injuries are the leading cause of sports-related hospitalizations in Northern Health, and 25 per cent of all ATV-related deaths in Canada occur in children under 15.
Hewitt says children and youth are at higher risk because they don’t have the physical size, strength, knowledge, cognitive or motor skills to safely operate an ATV, and they are often unable to react to or avoid a dangerous situation.
Holly Christian, Northern Health’s Regional Lead for Men’s Health, says another group that is at high risk for ATV injuries is men. She says biggest factor is that more men ride ATV’s than women, but men aged 15-24 account for the majority of ATV-related hospital stays in Northern Health. And although Northern Health makes up only seven per cent of BC’s population, it had almost half of the ATV-related deaths in the province between 2006 and 2011. Over half of these deaths involved alcohol and drugs.
Christian says many of these men have young families to support. “From a men’s health perspective, it represents a significant burden to men, particular young men, in our community.”
However injuries and fatalities are highly preventable for all ages, Hewitt says, by following some key tips like: wearing the right gear (helmet, eye protection, gloves, long sleeve shirt and long pants and proper footwear); driving sober; getting trained; and for children, supervising them and ensuring they are using the correct size ATV for their size and age. She says all manufacturers have very clear recommendations and warnings on labels on ATVs that state how old the operator of each model should be.
Hewitt and Christian agree that every rider should take an approved ATV safety course, often offered through local colleges or safety training companies. Hewitt says ATV/BC’s website has a list of certified course instructors – go to www.atvbc.ca and click on Safety. The site also has safety tips for using logging roads.
The new Off-Road Vehicle Act, which replaces the 40-year-old Motor Vehicle (All Terrain) Act, passed final reading on March 24, 2014. The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations says regulations which will bring most sections of the act into force are under development and expected to be released this fall. The ministry says their website www.for.gov.bc.ca/mof/orv is being updated, but does provide background information on the Off-Road Vehicle Management Framework.
The province says the legislation will allow the development of safety standards and rules of operation, will assist in identifying stolen or abandoned vehicles, and will give officers more effective tools to target the small number of ORV users that endanger others or damage sensitive habitat.
The legislation also created the ORV Trail Management Sub-account, which is intended to provide funding to maintain and develop ORV trails across the province, though it doesn’t yet have any funds. The ministry says the funding mechanism will be developed with stakeholder associations as part of the province’s Trails Strategy for BC.
An estimated 200,000 ORVs are used in the province, in a variety of sectors including farming, ranching, forestry, oil and gas, mining, sport, tourism, transportation and search and rescue.