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ATV use, it's not a crime


Dear editor, This past summer, two of my friends were stopped at different times on the side of the road in Lumsden on their ATVs. Both of them were wearing helmets, both were travelling slowly along the side of the road, and both have insurance on their ATVs. One was stopped by a police officer and one was stopped by what we think is a wildlife officer. The police officer asked a few questions, and my friend explained he was on his way home from berry picking and he had to go this way because the river had risen and this was the only way back. The officer, using common sense allowed him to go on his way without incident.

Letters to the Editor - Dear editor,

This past summer, two of my friends were stopped at different times on the side of the road in Lumsden on their ATVs. Both of them were wearing helmets, both were travelling slowly along the side of the road, and both have insurance on their ATVs.

One was stopped by a police officer and one was stopped by what we think is a wildlife officer. The police officer asked a few questions, and my friend explained he was on his way home from berry picking and he had to go this way because the river had risen and this was the only way back. The officer, using common sense allowed him to go on his way without incident.

A couple of days later, my other friend was stopped by a wildlife officer and after a few questions, he was written out a ticket for having no insurance, this after having answered yes to having insurance only a minute before. Upon his mistake, the wildlife officer then wrote him a ticket for driving on the side of the road on his ATV.

A couple of days later, the friend with the ticket went to the courthouse in Gander and asked to see the regulations governing ATV use in Newfoundland. They told him they did not have anything to show him, and that they did not know what the regulations were. The court that enforces the laws of the land and gives the fines for ATV use couldn't even tell him about the regulations governing that use. Wouldn't this infuriate you? This is what people in rural Newfoundland have been putting up with for the past couple of years and it is time that ATV users stand up and say, "We are not taking it anymore."

Why is it that the police officer let him carry on? Because that officer saw that the ATV user posed no threat to the safety of himself or anyone else, and didn't feel that someone going about their daily traditional ways was something he should be charged for, let alone pay hundreds of dollars for. Why did the wildlife officer give my other friend the ticket? Because they have been given this new power and make no mistake about it they are pushing it as far as they can, they are on a power trip, and it's time they got down off of their high horses and use common sense.

Yes, if some kid, or adult for that matter, is tearing off down the middle of the road, find out who it is, catch him and give him a ticket. He is endangering his own life and the lives of others. Give him a ticket and his parents too - if the driver is a minor.

They are the ones who gave him the ATV in the first place, and should be responsible. Doesn't this make much more sense? Every responsible ATV user will agree to this, and believe me when I say that the great majority of ATV users in Newfoundland are responsible. Don't paint all ATV users with the same brush. Don't put the guy who is pulling some wood down the side of the road to get it home for the winter, or who is going to his favourite hunting or berry picking place, or going to the cabin for the weekend, in the same boat as the kids and adults who go flying down the road not caring about anything or anyone. It's time some changes be made, and they need to be made now.

This brings me to my next point, the fact that we cannot travel on our ATVs to our favourite hunting or berry picking spots or to our cabins without putting a road to these places, which in most places would cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

ATV use is supposed to damage the bog they say, so wouldn't building a road over that same bog destroy any vegetation that was under that road. Isn't this a contradiction of their own reasoning for banning ATV use? As far as we know, there is a law that prohibits ATV use on bogs; at least we think so, because we, as ATV users, have never received anything about ATV laws in this province.

It was a hasty law - again if there is one, we don't really know - that had gotten pushed through with very little input from the people in this province. Go and talk to the people in rural Newfoundland, and the great majority will tell you that they would like to be able to take their ATVs in over the land to pick some berries or get to their favourite hunting places. This pitiful reason about destroying the marshes and bogs that they brought in this law for is ridiculous. We've all walked in the woods and came across a skitter (logging machine) trail that was left from a logging company many years ago. These machines do more damage to the land in a day than all of the ATVs in Newfoundland would do in decades. Yet is anything ever said to these companies about it? Not one word? Yet a man cannot get on his ATV and go across a bog to get to his cabin in the woods. Do you realize how absurd this is? How could we let this law pass?

We are being regulated to death, and we have to put a stop to this and we have to start now. These regulations are really affecting the freedom that we who live in Newfoundland and Labrador are so proud of. Rural Newfoundland is unique and cannot be looked at as larger centres are with regards to ATV use.

For instance, many people in rural Newfoundland cut wood and bring it out to the road in the winter so that it will dry in the summer and then he/she will go get the wood with his ATV in the early fall and bring it home. Right now, a person cannot drive down the side of the road on his/her ATV to bring home a load of wood in his/her cart without worrying that he/she will get a ticket from government workers. How ridiculous is this? We are being treated with very little respect. We are being treated like kids. Regular, law-abiding citizens getting fines for doing everyday chores and going about their everyday ways.

Most people right now are wearing helmets and have insurance on their ATVs, and we are just asking for some common sense when it comes to the laws governing ATV use. Let a man or woman ride down the side of the road to get to wherever he or she has to go, it is not a criminal offense especially if that person has a driver's license.

ATV accidents are becoming more prevalent these days. With many, many more ATVs being used now it is just mathematical sense that there are going to be more accidents. Like I mentioned earlier, most people are very responsible drivers and most of the accidents that are happening are being caused by misuse of ATVs and many are by kids who should not be riding full-size ATVs in the first place. This misuse and irresponsible driving of a few (mostly young people) is casting all ATV drivers and ATV use in a negative light. The media has been doing this for the last few years, and never is there any discussion about the freedom and delight that so many people get from their all-terrain vehicles.

If you agree with what I have written above, and I think that many will (it is the main topic in many sheds in many towns in Newfoundland), please come with or without your ATV on Sept. 28 at 2 p.m. near the Cranberry Farm, between Lumsden and Deadman's Bay, to show your support, and your displeasure with the way we are being treated with respect to ATV use.

Note: The cranberry farm is built on a bog that we were not allowed to cross on our ATVs because we would cause damage to it. The government provided the funding for this bog to be completely destroyed by backhoes, tractors, loaders and other machinery to grow some berries. There were other natural berries growing there one time, the ones we wanted to get to on our ATVs.

Sincerely,

Darrell Goodyear

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