Residents and visitors who ride snowmobiles, ATVs and dirt bikes in the Columbia Valley can anticipate a better system for registering their machines, but details of the costs to operate their off-road vehicles are yet to be finalized.
B.C.’s new Off Road Vehicle Act, first proposed in 2009 and finally introduced in late February with a promise of improved safety and better regulations for thousands of off-road enthusiasts in B.C., will come into effect this fall, after it received third reading in the B.C. Legislature on March 24th.
Regulations for the legislation still need to be ironed out. All off-road vehicle owners will be required to carry out a one-time $48 registration of their machines, which will integrate with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) vehicle registry, in order to operate their vehicles on Crown or other public land. Maximum fine amounts for infractions will rise to $5,000, from the current $500.
“I heard about the $48 cost, but we’re going to have to wait and see what ICBC puts out for their cost,” said Don Frew, a Quad Riders ATV Association of B.C. (ATV BC) director for the Kootenays. “Whether that’ll be the cost, I’m not sure; it shouldn’t be very high. It’s just like a vehicle that you buy; the registration would work the same way.”
ATV BC supports the new legislation, and Mr. Frew said some riders’ fears of the costs involved are misguided.
“The only insurance you will need to have — and you’re supposed to have it now — is your third-party liability on public-access forest service roads,” he said. “There are many people who don’t realize this, but forest service roads are public roads. There’s other insurance you can add also for collisions, fire, and theft.”
The cost of third-party liability insurance won’t likely be huge, said Mr. Frew — “for me last year, it cost me $68, so it’s not that expensive.”
When the new rules come into effect this fall, all off-road vehicles will have to be registered and have a license plate before they can be used anywhere outside of private property.
The new legislation should make it easier for enforcement officials to target those who are breaking backcountry rules around off-road vehicle use — the act will allow conservation officers to inspect and even seize equipment from those who violate the rules — and investigating thefts of off-road vehicles is expected to become a simpler process.
“I know of half a dozen people who’ve had their ATVs stolen, so being able to track who an off-road vehicle belongs to will be a huge improvement,” said Fred Kinsey, Lake Windermere Rod and Gun Club member and owner of K5 Mechanical.
The changes will also make it mandatory for drivers to have helmets, though the exact type of helmet has yet to be decided, according to the bill.
Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson noted a key rationale for the legislation was “to be able to enforce a level of standard on those rogue operators out there,” he said. That may come as welcome news to Wildsight Invermere, who for several years have been attempting to steer ATV riders and dirt bikers away from sensitive wetland areas near Lake Enid.
The issue of ATV and snowmobile use in backcountry areas enjoyed by hikers and skiers has also been at the heart of the now-stalled Columbia Valley Recreation Access Council. The group last met in September 2013, and had been hindered by lack of participation in the process by provincial government representatives.
The new act replaced the 40-year-old Motor Vehicle (All Terrain) Act, which already requires snowmobiles to be registered and bear two yellow decals on either side of the machine.
Mr. Frew also clarified that riders with BC Wildlife Federation insurance coverage do not have the equivalent of third-party liability coverage. The wildlife federation coverage extends only to ATV riders (not their machines) riding on public roads, and only for certain activities including hunting and wildlife rehabilitation.
Editor’s note: The Valley Echo attempted to speak to Wildsight, Tourism Radium, Toby Creek Adventure and Renegade MotoWorks about the upcoming changes, but none of the groups could be reached prior to the press deadline.