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Nova Scotia

More Nova Scotians dying in off-road accidents, say RCMP

The RCMP has recorded an increase in all-terrain vehicle accidents across the province since 2019, with 12 fatalities and 49 serious injuries.

RCMP Public Information Officer Corp. Chris Marshall, told CBC in a phone interview that the injuries consisted of broken bones, head injuries and major blood loss after drivers hit trees, rolled down embankments or fell.

In 2019, RCMP responded to 16 ATV collisions; Last year they responded to 26. Marshall said many accidents go unreported because most collisions happen off main roads and in areas with patchy phone service, such as many Cape Breton regions.

“We ask that you slow down, drive at a reasonable speed, wear all your safety gear, especially a helmet,” Marshall said.

According to Marshall, the three main causes of accidents are driver disturbances, speeding and distracted driving.

ATVs have increased in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Shutterstock / Gorlov-KV)

In a press release Monday, the RCMP reported an 18 percent increase in ATV registrations between 2020 and 2021. There are approximately 50,000 registered in the province.

“The number of off-highway vehicles in the province is increasing in absolute terms. So that would lead to more people using them, which obviously leads to an increase in incidents,” Marshall said.

Barry Barnet is Executive Director of the All Terrain Vehicle Association of Nova Scotia (ATVANS), the province’s largest weight training organization. He is concerned about the increase in accidents and would like more police presence on the trails.

The head of the Nova Scotia ATV Association says riders should learn which off-road trails they are allowed to use. (Bernice Hillier/CBC)

“The more enforcement and the more opportunities to see out there, the safer we will all be. We’re doing our part and they have to do their part,” he said in a phone interview with CBC.

Many of these accidents could be avoided, Barnet said, if drivers were properly trained and followed the rules. He said there are numerous safety training opportunities online and through ATV associations that he hopes people will take advantage of.

Marshall said there is less safety education for ATVs than regular road vehicles because more people drive cars. He encourages ATV riders to familiarize themselves with the rules and regulations.

“I think education … is a shared responsibility of everyone, not just the police,” he said.

He advises drivers to be aware of where off-highway vehicles are allowed — and where not — on designated routes and to drive within their ability. He said riders should wear a certified and unexpired helmet and gloves and cover their skin in the event of a fall.

Irresponsible ATV drivers can face fines ranging from $200 to $2,000, which could result in the vehicles being impounded. Parents or legal guardians are responsible if anyone under the age of 16 is found to be operating ATVs that do not comply with the Off-Highway Vehicles Act or the Motor Vehicle Act under the RCMP.

“From our point of view, there is a cost in not following the guidelines and rules in place to ensure people drive safely. But at the end of the day, whatever the financial cost, the ultimate goal here is to try to get people to drive safely,” Marshall said.

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