Cumberland mayor endorses new off-road regulations

Bill 13, introduced last week by Forests Minister Steve Thomson last week, is welcome news to Mayor Leslie Baird of Cumberland.

The new legislation is expected to increase safety, boost fines and help authorities track irresponsible owners of quads, dirt bikes and snowmobiles. The proposed Off Road Vehicle Act replaces the 40-year-old All Terrain Act with a structure designed to streamline regulations at minimal cost.

Baird says quads that appear on Dunsmuir Avenue and other Village streets tend to be driven recklessly.

"We have so many issues concerning off-road vehicles," Baird said, noting the users who abide by the rules outnumber the ones who don't. "It's very hard for the police. They cannot chase them, and I wouldn't want them to. We've been through lots of issues in itself."

B.C. is one of the last provinces not to require registration of ORVs. If passed, the act would establish a one-time registration fee of $48 to integrate with ICBC's vehicle registry. ORVs will need to display a plate.

Police will be able to stop and inspect vehicles for violations, seize an ORV for safety or evidence purposes, and increase the maximum fine from $500 to $5,000.

"That's quite a hit in the pocket," Baird said. "Some people don't get it until they actually have to pay."

Drivers will be required to wear helmets under the new law.

An estimated 200,000 ORVs are used in B.C. government hopes that organizations such as the Comox Valley ATV Club can be its eyes and ears.

"I think it's a good thing. Hopefully it will help prevent some thefts," said club president Tony Stetner, noting the recent disappearance of a couple of quads.

The local club is among 40 groups belonging to the Quad Riders ATV Association of B.C., which has been pushing for new legislation since 2002.

"There's been too many fatalities and serious injuries," president Jeff Mohr said. "Most of them are due to no helmets."

He notes an incident last spring in Prince George where a pregnant woman driving an ORV on pavement was killed after turning off the road and rolling the vehicle. She was not wearing a helmet.

The ORV Act is expected to be implemented in the fall.

Along with the positives that come with registration and licensing, Mohr expects Bill 13 will "put some teeth into the laws as far as environmental damage."

The proposed legislation will ease the process of providing future investments directly into developing and maintaining trails.


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