Wednesday, 21 June 2017 10:59

Ways to ensure you are using all-terrain vehicles safely

Written by  Lindsey Leko
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The snow is gone, so snowmobiles are put away and replaced with All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) travelling all over the countryside.

Officers often encounter ATVs during our duties in the hunting season and during the summer as well. Many people also participate in riding ATVs in the summer months in a few provincial parks.
ATVs are used for transportation in rural areas, recreational use on trails, and for occupational activities on work sites, farms, and in remote areas. Unfortunately, ATVs have become the cause of many injuries and deaths in the province. These injuries are not isolated incidents and span across all geographic locations and age groups.
What is really clear is some people do not know the rules surrounding ATV use, and the damage the unregulated use of an ATV can have on the environment.
An ATV is a self-propelled vehicle that travels on unprepared surfaces. How’s that for a broad definition? Examples of an ATV include mini-bikes, dirt bikes and all-terrain cycles, and off-road utility vehicles, including side-by-sides and utility task vehicles or UTVs.
Golf carts and snowmobiles are not considered ATVs.
The All Terrain Vehicles Act does not regulate the operation of ATVs on privately-owned land or land occupied by the operator or a member of the operator’s immediate family.   
The All Terrain Vehicles Act is another piece of legislation that is not a routine part of a conservation officer’s mandate, but it is legislation we do have the authority to enforce provincially. If you are looking for some good advice and information on the use of ATVs, the Saskatchewan All-Terrain Vehicle Association (SATVA) is an excellent source of info.
The association is run by a group of people who really care about and enjoy riding.
It is important riders know the rules as well as the limitations of the ATVs they are riding as well as their capabilities and experience. Putting a first-time youth rider on a large powerful ATV may not be the best practice.
I will try and break down some of the rules surrounding responsible ATV use, but if you have any questions, contact the SATVA as they have a wealth of information available to all riders. Remember, this is just a summary, as I do not have the space to cover everything.
Q: Who can drive an ATV?
A person must be at least 16 years of age and hold a valid driver’s licence. Exceptions are made for operators driving an ATV on private land owned by the operator or by a member of their immediate family.
Youth between the ages of 12 and 15 can operate an ATV in public areas and may cross roads — but can’t drive on roads — if they have passed an approved ATV training course, or if they are supervised by someone who has held a driver’s licence continuously for the preceding 365 days.
If you are disqualified from driving a car or truck, that disqualification applies and carries over to operation of an ATV or side-by-side.
Q: What equipment do I need?
The operator of an ATV, or any passenger in or on an ATV, must wear a helmet and eye protection, unless operating on private land owned by the operator or his or her immediate family.
Rules of the Road
• Use care and attention at all times while operating an ATV and have consideration for other persons in the area.   
• Do not travel at a speed greater than 80km/hr.
• Travel a minimum of two metres from the travelled portion of the highway except to cross.
• Don’t operate an ATV on a highway, whether on the traveled or untraveled portion (shoulder), or on public land without having liability insurance.
• Don’t drive an ATV at night without lights.
• Don’t carry a passenger unless the ATV is designed for that purpose.
• Ensure you are wearing seat belts while operating an ATV if they are installed by the manufacturer.
• Yield right of way to all pedestrians.
• Don’t chase wildlife with your ATV.
• All firearms carried on an ATV must be unloaded.
Q: Where can I ride?
It is lawful to ride an ATV on private land with the permission of the owner or occupant.
You can also drive an ATV on Crown land, including highway right of ways unless there are signs advising otherwise. One key requirement when driving an ATV on public land is to ensure that it is insured.
There are riding opportunities in two Saskatchewan provincial parks that have areas set aside and designated as ATV trails. These two parks are Moose Mountain and Narrow Hills Provincial Parks. 
ATV usage on park land is only allowed on designated trails, as ATV use can cause serious environmental damage such as soil erosion, compaction and damage to vegetation. ATVs, because of their speed and noise, can also frighten wildlife.
Normally, ATV use in these locations is legislated through bylaws. Most centres have bylaws applying some type of restriction, so it is best to check locally.
Operation of an ATV on wildlife lands, which are clearly marked throughout Saskatchewan, is unlawful except during hunting season when it is lawful to use an ATV to retrieve legally taken big game by the most direct route.
Q: Where can I get ATV training for myself and family? 
There are many locations in Saskatchewan that offer this type of training. I found some in a Google search easily, but the Saskatchewan All-Terrain Vehicle Association would be a good reference.
Until next time, keep your rod tip up.
Editor’s note: Ministry of Environment conservation officer Lindsey Leko has spent more than 25 years as a conservation officer in Saskatchewan. For many years, Officer Leko contributed a column to local papers on a variety of issues related to hunting, fishing, and other resource-related issues. If you have questions, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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