‘Save it for the trails’

Bonnie Learning
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Resident concerned about reckless ATV, dirt bike operators on town roads, trails

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Tara Howse says she is fed up with reckless ATV and dirt bike operators in Happy Valley-Goose Bay — in particular on Kelland Drive and the bike trail — and fears it’s only a matter of time before a serious accident occurs.

Tara Howse is fed up with the noise and reckless behaviour of some ATV and dirt bike drivers in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

“I live on Martin Crescent, and my backyard borders on Kelland Drive,” explained Howse of one of the problem areas she sees in the community.

“I don’t understand why people actually drive on Kelland on their dirt bikes and ATV’s, when there are trails right next to it.”

Howse said she has no issues with those who are responsible in their driving.

“I grew up here. I know that these types of vehicles are a part of our way of life in Labrador. But when you’re reckless — kicking dust, dirt and flying rocks along the side of the roads, or driving on the roads at a high speed — you’re making it bad for everyone who do abide by the rules and regulations.”

She said she has experienced first hand the disregard some drivers have for the law.

“I was driving on Grenfell Street one day, when I looked in my rearview mirror and saw a dirt bike directly behind me, doing a wheelie — and he was going just as fast as I was.”

Howse said another big problem area is the bike trail that leads from the valley area to the top of Kelland Drive.

“The bike trail is terrible,” she said.

“My husband was walking our dog on the trail recently, and a dirt bike zipped past within a foot from him, and last week, we saw a dirt bike rider end up in a ditch because they never saw a dog with its owner until the last second and had to swerve to avoid the dog.”

Howse said she is afraid a more serious situation may occur at some point.

“My husband and friend of ours with their toddler were on the bike trail not long ago, when a dirt bike came along, spitting up rock just feet away from them  — where the 18-month old was.

“There are so many near misses…it’s just an accident waiting to happen.”

Howse said she has some advice for those who enjoy driving recklessly.

“Save it for the trails,” she said.

RCMP aware

RCMP S/Sgt. Don Rogers is well aware of Howse’s — and other residents — concerns on this matter.

He said that they, too, see reckless behaviour while out patrolling the roads and have been getting complaints called in as of late about the problem. But, he says, it’s not as clear-cut as pulling someone over.

“Often by the time we get the scene (of a reckless driver), they’re long gone, and we don’t even have so much as a license plate number to follow up on,” said Rogers.

“It’s hard to police after the fact in these instances.”

Sgt. Howard Fitzpatrick added to Rogers’s comments.

“We’re taking this matter very seriously,” he said.

“With so many trails to go around here, there is no need for anyone to be riding on the roads and in neighborhood’s, disturbing everyone.”

Rogers said it’s important for the general public to remember that being able to have some leeway with regards to driving ATV’s and dirt bikes in Happy Valley-Goose Bay is a privilege many other municipalities in the province don’t have.

“Many communities have completely restricted the use of these vehicles for exactly these types of reasons people are complaining about,” said Rogers.

“Here in Goose Bay, one is given leeway to leave their residence and use roadways to get to the nearest trail via the shortest route possible, at a reasonable rate of speed.

“We could enforce the letter of the law and standard of law (as it applies to ATV’s and dirt bikes), but no one wants that.”

He also said this is not a problem limited to youth, as many adults are also part of the problem.

“I was talking to a Military Police officer recently, who told me he stopped a mother and father on an ATV — with their infant,” said Rogers.

“They had a bike helmet on the baby and the mother was wearing a hockey helmet.”

Rogers said he has personally attended three ATV accident scenes in his career to date.

“They all involved reckless driving with parents and children, some involved alcohol. But in all three cases, the child involved died.

“We want to prevent this type of thing from happening.”

Rogers said there is also an onus on parents in cases where children under the age of 16 are using ATV’s and dirt bikes.

“If under the age of 16, they are supposed to be accompanied by an insured driver 19 years of age or older,” said Rogers. (See sidebar for more regulations regarding ATV/dirt bike use).

“I recently stopped and warned four young boys who were doubling on ATV’s — which is prohibited, and not wearing a helmet, which is also prohibited and stupid,” noted Rogers.

Rogers added parents could also be held civically responsible if their under-16 year old child causes an accident due to reckless driving.

“It’s not really acceptable anymore to purchase these powerful machines for their child and have carte blanche with it.

“The responsibility is with the parents to ensure their child is age appropriate and ensure they’re operating in a safe manner and within the law.”

Rogers noted fines for first offences such as not wearing a helmet, operating without reasonable consideration, operating an ATV under the age of 16 years, or failure to stop for a peace officer is $500, which double on second offence.

“We also have the option to seize the vehicle for up to 30 days the owners expense.”

Rogers said he doesn’t want to see anyone lose access to the freedom of being able to enjoy the outdoors on their ATV’s.

“I don’t want to bring in ‘zero tolerance’ because we can’t win that battle,” he said.

“But we’re going to focus on compliance, and if I feel the community is not getting that message, we may have to take harder enforcement options to send that message.”

 

bonnie.learning@tc.tc

Organizations: RCMP

Geographic location: Goose Bay, Happy Valley, Labrador Grenfell Street

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Comments

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Recent comments

  • Robert Parker
    August 12, 2014 - 17:10

    One issues with reporting or complaining about the ATV/Dirtbike problem is that if you give a statement or credible evidence, you have to go to court. This sort of cases or charges are usually thrown out of court.

  • william vardy
    August 12, 2014 - 15:17

    It's the same all over town! I've been overtaken by a 4 wheeler on the old winter road and I was doing 60Km. Nobody seems to be doing anything, especially the town, they just make by-laws and then forget to enforce them!

  • william vardy
    August 12, 2014 - 15:16

    It's the same all over town! I've been overtaken by a 4 wheeler on the old winter road and I was doing 60Km. Nobody seems to be doing anything, especially the town, they just make by-laws and then forget to enforce them!

  • william vardy
    August 12, 2014 - 15:15

    It's the same all over town! I've been overtaken by a 4 wheeler on the old winter road and I was doing 60Km. Nobody seems to be doing anything, especially the town, they just make by-laws and then forget to enforce them!