Risky business

Kerri Breen
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ATV death toll reaches six; advocates stress safety, common sense

Most all-terrain vehicle (ATV) users are getting the message about safety, but a minority are still engaging in risky riding, according to police.

There have been six ATV-related deaths in this province since January. Sgt. Boyd Merrill, RCMP media relations officer, said most ATV crashes are preventable.

Telegram photo illustration. - Photo by Thinkstock.com

Most all-terrain vehicle (ATV) users are getting the message about safety, but a minority are still engaging in risky riding, according to police.

There have been six ATV-related deaths in this province since January. Sgt. Boyd Merrill, RCMP media relations officer, said most ATV crashes are preventable.

"When tragedy happens, we can usually trace it back to somebody's responsibility," he said.

Many are related to the driver or passenger not wearing a helmet, driving while impaired, driving without sufficient light, driving in inappropriate areas such as roadways or using excessive speed.

"There's so many different reasons that cause tragedy, you wouldn't be able to narrow it down to just one," Merrill said.

The RCMP is compiling statistics to assess how this year's ATV fatalities stack up to last year's.

Rick Noseworthy, president of the Avalon T'railway Corp. and vice-president of the Newfoundland T'railway Council, said while even one death is too many, this year's numbers are relatively low.

"It's been a good year," he said. "We really think most people are getting the message."

Two ATV incidents occurred over the weekend. On Saturday evening, the driver of a blue Yamaha Grizzly travelling east on a dirt road in Lethbridge turned a corner and crashed into a black Can-Am Outlander going in the opposite direction.

A 31-year-old passenger was thrown from the ATV and was pronounced dead at the scene. The Brooklyn man's name has not been released. Police said the vehicle was not designed for two people.

"It had a single seat and a rack on the back," said Const. John Galway of the Clarenville RCMP.

The driver, who was also thrown from the quad, was taken to hospital in Clarenville with non-life-threatening injuries.

Neither was wearing a helmet, which is required by law.

The driver and passenger of the other vehicle were not injured.

RCMP said speed and alcohol may have been factors in the crash, but the investigation is ongoing.

About 15 minutes before RCMP responded to that crash, another RCMP detachment arrived on the scene of a different ATV incident.

Police said a man from Shoe Cove on the Baie Verte Peninsula was found driving his ATV on the road in La Scie.

He was charged with impaired driving under the Criminal Code of Canada as well as with operating an ATV under the influence of alcohol, a summary offence under provincial legislation.

Under the Motorized Snow Vehicles and All-terrain Vehicles Act, there is zero tolerance for alcohol when driving an ATV.

But enforcement is another issue.

Because ATVs aren't supposed to be operated on public roadways, it's hard for the RCMP to catch those who drink and ride.

"It's almost an impossibility," Merrill said.

Last Friday morning, just before noon, police responded to a collision involving an ATV and a car on the main road in John's Beach on the west coast. A man in his 60s was thrown from his ATV after he was struck by a car travelling westbound.

On June 29, a 58-year-old Lark Harbour woman died after being trapped under an overturned ATV in water about a foot deep.

Lessons in safety

Merrill said the RCMP provides law enforcement leadership, but relies on people's common sense and ability to "self-police."

He referenced the functioning of small, rural communities like Ramea that rarely see a police officer.

"They have elements of self-policing that have been around for hundreds of years. The people just know enough that you can do some things and you can't do other things - that self-policing is the most effective form of policing there is," he said.

Merrill said people owe it to their families and the rest of the public to be careful.

Noseworthy's group offers training for ATV users.

The majority of his clients are corporate - only about 15 per cent come forward from the public.

He'd like to see numbers rise. New ATV riders shouldn't be able to take their ATVs straight from the showroom floor to the trails, he said.

"We really think that people coming into this sport should be trained," he said.

As of 2005, children over 14 can only ride a machine with up to a 90-cubic-centimetre engine. Anyone over 16 can ride any ATV.

kbreen@thetelegram.com

Organizations: RCMP, Newfoundland T'railway Council, Motorized Snow Vehicles

Geographic location: Lethbridge, Brooklyn, Clarenville Shoe Cove La Scie Canada Lark Harbour

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  • ed
    April 14, 2013 - 06:18

    atv's are not dangerous people are dangerous driving with no helments underage drivers drinking and driving to many people on quads ment for one rider it'snot the quads it'sthe people who are dangerous