Off-road enthusiasts will soon be subject to new provincial legislation designed to promote safe and responsible riding and Jeff Mohr is welcoming the move.
Mohr, president of B.C. Quad Riders ATV Association and a Prince George resident, expressed strong support for Bill 13, the Off Road Vehicle Act, currently making its way through the B.C. legislature.
"As far as I'm concerned it's all pluses, all the way right from start to finish," Mohr said.
Most notable for Mohr is that helmets will become mandatory if the legislation is passed, which appears likely. At the moment, the only provinces where helmets are not required are B.C. and Alberta.
"It's pretty sad when a guy legally has to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle but he doesn't have to on an ATV," Mohr said.
Licence plates and registration will also become mandatory. The process will carry a one-time cost of $48 and would be done through the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. The ORV will also need to have a vehicle identification number, and if not, the owner must apply for one. Mohr said those provisions will reduce the number of thefts and make tracking down stolen ORVs easier.
Those steps will also make it easier to identify the small minority of riders who go off trail and cause environmental damage, Mohr added.
"There are not a lot of people doing that," he said. "The majority of them are out there to trying to enjoy themselves and have fun too."
Powers of enforcement will also be stepped up. Police, Ministry of Forests natural resource officers and Ministry of Environment conservation officers will be able to stop, inspect and seize ORVs for safety or evidence purposes. As well, the maximum fine for offences will be increased from $500 to $5,000.
Coinciding with the tougher laws, Mohr said an education campaign will be launched to let users know what will be required of them and why the provisions are needed.
The changes have been a long time coming. The legislation follows on three years of work by the Coalition for Licensing and Registration of Off-Road Vehicles, made up of off-road and conservation groups that included ATV-B.C., that culminated in the release in 2006 of 48 recommendations designed to improve safety, minimize environmental impact and encourage responsible driving by off-road enthusiasts.
A subsequent Off Road Vehicle Management Framework released in 2009 formed the basis for the ORV Act, which will replace the 40-year-old Motor Vehicle (All Terrain) Act.
The legislation will also apply to dirt bikes and other off-road motorcycles. If it has been registered and licensed with a number plate under the Motor Vehicle Act, it will be deemed in compliance with the ORV Act when being operated on other Crown or public lands.
Registration under the ORV Act will also become mandatory for snowmobiles.
Owners who have already registered their snowmobiles under the Motor Vehicle (All Terrain) Act will be eligible for a refund for the amount they had already paid - $5 for transfers and $10 for registration.
"Transitioning from a manual snowmobile registry to a database registry (the same as on-highway vehicles) will ensure that enforcement officers have 24/7 access to the registration information to better identify irresponsible riders and to track down stolen ORVs," a Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations spokesperson said.
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