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Lesson to be learned from ATV death

By Steph Crosier


CENTRE HASTINGS, ON (17/08/11) Constable Terry Birard of Centre Hastings OPP displays the two ATVs that are used to patrol the main trails in the area. Most common offence he's seen is riding without a helmet. Photo by Steph Crosier

A recent death illustrates the three most common problems with all-terrain vehicles, says an ATV spokesman.

Elizabeth Shannon, 41, of Peterborough died last Saturday after the ATV she was a passenger on crashed.  Neither she nor the driver was wearing a helmet.

“There was nothing right about that accident,” said Wayne Dobb of the Ontario Federation of All Terrain Vehicle Club and the All Terrain Council of Canada. “That’s the absolute most compelling thing every time you hear of an ATV incident.”

Dobb said that these types of accidents makes all ATVs look bad, “people are absolutely their own worst enemies, when it comes to ATV accidents, 95% of the time.”

Riding without a helmet, riding under age, and riding with two people are the most common offences in Hastings County. Police say riders know the laws but they just don’t care.

Constable Scott Burke of Stirling Police Services, who owns his own ATV, said kids riding under age and without licences are a major concern in Stirling. He said police would pull the young rider over and call their parents.

“It’s up to the discretion of the officer,” said Burke. “Usually what will happen is that the parents will be contacted and get them to come and get the bike. Then decide if a ticket gets written or not.”

Sgt. Curtis Mclean of Centre Hastings OPP said having the proper paperwork and helmets is the main issue in his area.

“No helmets, no insurance, no plates, most things you would find on a regular vehicle,” said Mclean.

Burke said that speed is another problem. He said older kids with licences and who are allowed on the roads are speeding and not following the Highway Traffic Act.

“We are getting a lot of them that are just breaking the HTA laws that are just ripping down the roads at excessive speeds and such.”

Mclean said to prevent serious accidents, riders should reduce speed, wear a helmet, and know where they are going.

“If you do get people without a helmet it’s usually the older people.” said Burke.  “A lot of it’s the farmers. They are just going from field to field they don’t think they need to bother. But we let them know that they still need to do it.”

“All the messaging and training in the world is not going to help unless you actually get people to understand that you can’t strap that helmet on your head as you’re flying through the air about to hit a tree,” said Dobb.

In Centre Hastings often times it is people going from hunting camp to hunting camp thinking they don’t need a helmet.

“Next thing you know you need to go somewhere else and you don’t have your helmet,” said Mclean. “Alcohol also lowers peoples inhibitions and judgement.”

Dobb says the ATV associations and the Ministry of Transportation are working together to create “YouTube-type” videos to educate riders on staying safe. There are also training programs but they are not necessary to drive an ATV.

Two people riding on an ATV is illegal on Ontario roads. Burke says on the trails it is not a ticket-able offence but once they come to a road crossing, technically one of them must get off the bike.

Helmets are mandatory, ATV must be licensed and must follow the same rules as vehicles under the Highway Traffic Act.

In Madoc, Stirling, and Bancroft, ATVs can drive on the municipal roads and highways. In Quinte West there are restrictions on some roads. In all municipalities the maximum speed for an ATV is 30km/h less than the posted speed limit for regular vehicles. They must drive on the shoulder, and riders cannot be on the roads after dark.

ATVs are not permitted on Belleville streets.