ATV injury data in Alberta paints ‘shocking picture’: study

Watch above: As off-roading season revs up, one safety watchdog hopes riders follow a safer route paved by a local county. Laurel Gregory explains.

EDMONTON – It appears as though Alberta is falling behind when it comes to all-terrain vehicle (ATV) safety.

“Alberta has no restrictions on ATVs right now. It’s the only province in the country that does not,” says Dr. Don Voaklander, director of the Alberta Centre for Injury Control & Research (ACICR).

When it comes to ATV safety, each municipality is responsible for setting its own bylaws. The ACICR recently reviewed Alberta’s ATV safety bylaws and says overall, the data “paints a shocking picture.”

Some of the findings include:

  • Alberta is the only province in Canada that does not have mandatory helmet legislation
  • 41% of all rural municipalities and counties in Alberta have no ATV safety bylaws at all
  • Over the past 10 years, there were 145 ATV-related deaths in Alberta – an average of 14 deaths per year
  • A significant number of ATV deaths involve head injuries, 77% of people who died of head injuries were not wearing a helmet
  • 16% of all ATV deaths are among children under 16 years old
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“You just can’t jump on one of these things and open up the throttle and go,” says Voaklander. “They can’t be treated as a toy. They’re big, powerful machines and you can get into trouble with them.”

Voaklander says the province could learn from Parkland County, which he says is leading all rural municipalities in Alberta when it comes to off-highway vehicle safety.

“We would like the province to adopt the same restrictions that Parkland County has adopted. That would go a long way in ensuring the public safety across the province of Alberta so people can use ATVs safely.”

Some of Parkland County’s bylaws, which came into place in 2008, include:

  • All riders must wear a helmet
  • Riders must be at least 16 years old and have a classified driver’s licence
  • Off-highway vehicles aren’t allowed to be ridden between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.
  • Seating restrictions of each machine must be followed

But while the bylaws are some of the strictest in the province, peace officers say they still see people who choose not to follow the rules.

Gwen Kilmosko, a community peace officer in Parkland County who focuses on off-highway enforcement, says one of the most concerning violations she’s seen happened just this past May long weekend.

“There was a gentleman riding a quad on one of our paved county roads with four kids between the ages of three and seven, all piled onto a one-person quad,” she explains.

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“He had one kid in each arm and two behind him. No one was wearing helmets and there were vehicles passing him on the road at 90 km/h.”

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Even though some don’t follow Parkland County’s bylaws, Kilmosko believes they do save lives and says the province should consider following suit.

“I think the people that do listen to them and the people that do wear helmets – if anything happens, if they get into an accident – I definitely think it can save their life,” she says. “At the very minimum the province should put in that helmets are required.”

It’s unclear if the province will revisit the issue, calls to the Transportation Minister’s office were not returned Friday afternoon.

Voaklander would also like to see the province adopt the mandatory helmet rule. But in the meantime, he’s making his message of safety crystal clear.

“The message is: don’t drink and use your ATV, use a helmet, don’t have more riders on an ATV than what they’re designated for and if you’re going to let your kids use an ATV, make sure the ATV is age appropriate.”

With files from Laurel Gregory, Global News.

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