New off-highway vehicle rules are now in effect

Trent Ernst, Editor


It’s first thing in the morning, on Monday, November 17 and Gordon Graham is down at the HUB insurance office, waiting.

He’s here to register his ATV and get plates for it as part of the province’s new off highway vehicle (OHV) act. “Because we’re an hour ahead of the rest of the province,” he says, “I could be the first person in BC to get this.”

Bill 13, as the act is called, will require all off-road vehicles (ORV) to be registered. The new bill brings ORVs in line with snowmobiles, which have had to be registered since the 1970s. While registration is currently voluntary, it will become mandatory as of June of next year. “This act requires all operators to register their machines,” says Graham. “I hope this move will influence the other Grizzly Valley ATV club members, and anyone else, to follow.”

Graham is the president of the Grizzly Valley Club. He says that people who register early will beat the rush that is bound to happen in June.

By 9:04, Josie Pindera has got all the information typed in and hit send. Of course, the thing about being first is that you’re blazing a trail, and this trail leads straight through a mountain of paperwork straight into never done this before. “Compared to this, the gun registry was just a drop in the bucket,” he quips.

After all the paperwork is navigated, the folks at HUB still need to figure out what i’s to dot and t’s to cross, so Graham goes home to wait. At 3:00 in the afternoon, when he calls in to report, he is still waiting.

But by the end of the day, he’s got a new license plate in his hot little hands. He says, other than merely being legal, riders need to be compliant in order to ride. Sometime soon, he says, the Municipal council will be implementing their OHV bylaws. The bylaw has already had its first few readings earlier in this year, but was put on hold when the provincial government, who have been working on ATV rules for over a decade, announced that these new regulations would be passing into law in November.

The new Tumbler Ridge bylaws will open up some trails in the District to ATVers, but only, says Graham, to people whose machines are registered. “No vehicle will be able to operate within the District unless it is registered, and carry third party insurance of at least $1,000,000 for vehicle and rider. So they are going to make it mandatory as soon as it’s implemented. So come June, you won’t be able to ride on Crown Land without a license, and you won’t be able to ride on in-town trails without a license. If we want to ride anywhere? Compliance is the only answer.”

As of November 17, all snowmobile, dirt bike, argo, side-by-side and atv owners can register their machines and receive a number plate for a one-time cost of 4$8. This will better assist law enforcement and public to identify people who are riding dangerously or illegally, plus help track down stolen machines. ICBC and law enforcement will now have access to a database with a rider’s address, license number and vehicle serial number. “I think this step will curb a lot of irresponsible riding activity as you will have your name (license) affixed to the back of your machine,” says Graham. “We will now know who the people are who are riding like maniacs, and without a plate, you will stick out like a sore thumb.”

In addition to the $48 to register his ATV, Graham also paid another $48. $23 for a license fee and $25  for $200,000, which is the minimum in insurance coverage you need if you plan on crossing a forest service road.

The Forest Service Road regulations have been in effect for many years and no matter where Tumbler Ridge motorized enthusiasts choose to play, says Graham, there is usually a Forest Service Road involved. He also spent an extra $200 on personal insurance. “After spending a fortune on your machine you can’t cheap out on your body—it’s all worth it. Smack into your buddie or roll your machine off the mountain—you’re covered. People buy very expensive car and truck insurance and travel on maintained highways. With an atv, one can easily get into those precarious, white knuckle situations. Insurance in these backcountry places only makes sense…and will become mandatory by June 2015.”

Graham says these new regulations offer one more reason for local riders to join the ATV club. “With proof of membership in the club, HUB Insurance here in TR is offering a 25 percent discount on your insurance, and another five percent if you have completed a riders safety course.”

Graham says that double the discounts being offered by other brokers he’s heard about. And, as a member of ATV/BC, which club members are, riders are covered for five million in insurance.

Between now and June, additional safety measures will be implemented, especially around children operating OHV, as well as rules of operations, penalties and conditions of use for OHVs.

While riders in the north might chafe at the rules, many riders down south will celebrate the freedom this new bill offers, as many popular riding areas have closed over the last two decades. “Don’t blame the Government for all these regulations,” says Graham. “A huge coalition of interest groups assembled way back in 2002 to address motorized safety in our backcountry. Included in this group were; Ministry of Forests, British Columbia Snowmobile Association, British Columbia Wildlife Federation, Canadian Off Highway Vehicle Association, British Columbia Off Road Motorcycle Association, British Columbia Cattlemen, Grasslands Group, ATV/BC, Honda,Yamaha, Polaris, and the list goes on. One group (probably the most influential off all) was the BC Coroner’s Office. This group presented thousands of statistics of accidents and deaths of Children in Off Road Vehicle Accidents gathered from  across Canada. From these horrifying numbers came the regulations for adult supervision and size-appropriate machines for children.”

Something else that was discussed by this interest group was the idea of making-safety course instructions mandatory, says Graham. “Think about it. One requires a driver’s license to operate a car, truck, bus, plane, train … even a boat. The City of Whitehorse has a Mandatory Safety Certificate regulation in place to travel on any of their multi-use trails. But for a high powered ATV, right now, all you have to do is plunk down the money you have been saving for a Caribbean Cruise and you’re automatically the proud new owner of an ORV even if you have no idea how to operate it.”

Graham says that most of the regulations are specifically addressing riders down south. “The grapevine tells me that a lot of problems started in our Southern portions of the province like in Chilliwack, Mission, Hope, Squamish, Whistler, Pemberton and the Sunshine Coast. I wished we could have divided the province in half, by drawing a line ,east and west through Prince George making it the division line for upper and lower jurisdiction areas. But I guess it doesn’t matter where all this started, all user groups are affected. Now we all have to learn to comply—or go to Jail.

“As president of the Grizzly Valley ATV and speaking for most of its members, we think this is a good move and are all for it. The sale of Motorized Recreational Vehicles has exploded, and will continue! We must do everything we can to protect and make safe our backcountry.”