ORV Laws to take effect November 1

Trent Ernst, Editor

After years of delays and postponements, BC’s new Off Road Vehicle (ORV) rules will be going into effect on November 1.

The new regulations are designed to promote safe and responsible use of BC’s backcountry, and include provisions on numbered plate placement, rules for child operators and safety equipment requirements.

Tim Croston, Acting President of the local Grizzly Valley ATV club says these new laws pertain to all off-road vehicles: ATVs, snowmobiles, off-road motorcycles, side-by-sides and, to address safety/use matters, small on-highway motor vehicles like jeeps.

“The big change is ORV registration will be mandatory,” says Croston. “Prior to this, for the last year or so, it’s been voluntary, but now it’s mandatory. If you are stopped, and you don’t have registration, you are subject to a fine.”

And those fines have changed, too. The maximum fine for offenses has increased from $500 to $5,000 and some offences include up to six months in jail. Fines for violation tickets have also increased; for example, careless operation of an ORV increased from $115 to $368 and operating an unregistered ORV on Crown land increased from $58 to $230.

Croston says registering your ORV is not an arduous process. “It’s as simple as going down to ICBC with your information. It’s basically the same as registering a vehicle.”

There are some differences, says Croston. Before you register, you must prove you’ve paid the applicable taxes. He says if you bought an ATV in Grande Prairie, you will need to pay PST. “Anything that was bought before July 1, 2010 is exempt,” he says. “Anything newer, though, you’ll have to pay the taxes. If you don’t have the paperwork, you will have to go down to town hall to fill out a form.”

Another change to the rules, ORVs will now be able to cross roads. However, says Croston, there are some rules. “If you want to cross a highway, you’ll need liability insurance as well as having your vehicle registered. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can blast across the highway anywhere you want. You will be able to cross at a stop sign or light.

If that isn’t enough, it will be possible to get an operation permit. These are generally for companies that want to operate an ORV on the road as part of a job site, but in Elkford, the RCMP is working in conjunction with the District to allow members of the local ATV club to ride on the road from their house to the nearest trailhead.

Croston says the club is in discussions with the local RCMP to see if this would be possible here. “We’ve talked to Sergeant Learning about how they’re doing it in Elkford. We don’t want to have to load up our machines onto our trucks, drive a block or two and then unload, just to go for a ride around town. He seemed open to it, at least on a trial basis.”

While this is in no way written in stone, Croston is cautiously optimistic. “It wouldn’t allow people to tear around town. You’d have to go in with a map, and show them the route from your place to the nearest trailhead. And there’ll be guidelines along with that: 20 kph, wear your helmet, all the regular safety rules. And he made it clear that if they go ahead and try it, the only way a person would be able to do it is if they are members of our ATV club.”

Additionally, use of helmets will be mandatory to operate on crown land, as well as seat belts, if installed. Headlights will have to be used in low light conditions, and all operators will be required to carry a driver’s license or BC Identity Card while operating ORV on Crown land.

Vehicles will not be allowed to be operated by riders under the age as set by manufacturer, which is usually 16, unless under adult supervision. Croston says there is some discrepancy for younger kids who have taken a certified safety course and written permission from their parent or guardian.. “And a child cannot drive an ORV with a passenger,” he says.

What’s the reaction of local riders to the new rules? “I can only give you the perspective of our club members,” says Croston. “And everyone is going to do this. I’ve heard a lot of disgruntled non club members talking about this, but they don’t have much choice.”

Croston says the cost is $48 fee for plate and registration and $1,000,000 in liability (the minimum required for riding on Forest Service Roads is $200,000) is generally less than $50. “And club members get a 20 percent discount from Hub International.” Still, for people with multiple machines, the cost can add up, especially the taxes. “That’s the thing I don’t like about this. It doesn’t matter how many times you buy or sell it, you still have to pay the tax on it.”

With the new laws coming into effect, it means that the District’s long awaited ATV bylaw—which they put on hold waiting for the provincial laws to come into effect—will finally get passed, too. “The local bylaw is being looked at by the lawyers right now,” says Croston. “It’s been on hold waiting for this to be finalized. I’m not 100 percent sure that what we recommended will be implemented. I won’t know until we see the bylaw. The District knows the same as we do: it’s been a free for all. Some people are very respectful, some are not. One person can wreck it for everybody. We’re never going to stop those people regardless of the bylaw or whatever else. We know we’re going to get people who join the club for cheaper insurance and the permit, but we will have the right to revoke that membership as well, so there is a deterrent there.”