BAY ROBERTS, NL — Ascension Collegiate is taking steps to further ensure students are practicing safe use of their all terrain vehicles.
The proper use of ATVs has been a hot issue in Bay Roberts and surrounding communities as of late. Several regular council meetings held during the summer saw councillors presented with letters from residents, voicing their concerns over the amount of ATVs that were driving up and down the main roads.
During a meeting held in July of 2017, the idea of safety programs was discussed. Councillors, alongside Mayor Phillip Wood, decided that providing residents and students in Bay Roberts with an information session regarding the safe use of ATVs, as well as the dangers that come along with improper use of the vehicles, would be beneficial to all.
On Thursday morning, Oct. 19, level two students at Ascension Collegiate were introduced to the first of such programs, where they heard from RCMP, as well as representatives from the Avalon Trailway Association, who advocate for safe ATV usage.
“It’s an ongoing issue in our community, and has been for quite some time. Hopefully this sort of thing will help spread the word about what and what not to do on an ATV,” Wood told The Compass prior to the session. “We’re not so naïve as to think that this is going to completely stop anyone from misusing (ATVs), but with any luck, it will at least decrease it.”
Presenting one at a time to small classrooms throughout the day, the nearly hour-long information session goes over the dangers of illegal use of ATVs, as well as ways to prevent accidents and collisions along the trails.
Rick Noseworthy, vice president of the Avalon Trailway Association, spoke to students Thursday about driver safety. Noseworthy is an avid ATV user himself, and said speed is one of the biggest issues he sees in young ATV drivers.
“Everyone’s got to slow it down,” Noseworthy said. “I don’t mean driving slow, but just everything in general – take it slowly. Take that extra second to think. If you’re going to go down that trail, or you’re going to cross a road, before you do it, just slow yourself down and take an extra second to think. It could save a life.”
Noseworthy explained what should be worn when riding, including proper helmets, goggles, and thick clothing that covers the entire body, noting that baseball caps, shorts, and flip flops are seen far too often on riders of all ages.
Following Noseworthy’s presentation, members of the RCMP took some time discuss the use of ATVs on main roads.
Sgt. Brent Hillier explained that speeding away from police cars was a common response from ATV drivers caught on main roads. RCMP officers are unable to chase ATVs, and as a result, can do little other than flash their lights in hopes that the rider will slow down, or stop. This, however, is hardly ever the case, according to Hillier.
“These vehicles aren’t made for the main roads, but I understand that sometimes you don’t really have a choice – you need to cross a road to get from one part of the trail to the other,” Hillier said to the students. “It’s the people that are doing wheelies, zooming up and down the roads that are the problem. Those are the ones that are going to get ticketed, not the ones who are just driving.”
Hefty fines are usually beyond what young drivers, some as young as 13-years-old, can afford. In the case of younger drivers, it is usually the parents who legally own the vehicles that pay, putting them at the forefront of responsibility.
However, Hillier made it clear to students that ticketing is not what RCMP wants to do when it comes to ATVs on the main roads.
“If we flick our lights, we just want you to stop, or slow down. Come talk to us, tell us what you’re doing, and more often than not, we’ll let you go on your way and get to the trails,” Hillier explained. “If you’re being sensible, then that’s all there is to it. If you’re acting crazy, then that’s another story. That’s what we issue tickets for.”
With accidents increasing over the years, Noseworthy said the importance of such presentations is greater and greater. The purpose of the sessions was not to dissuade young people from using ATVs, he said, but instead to educate those that have an interest in it, and ultimately decrease the amount of ATV related accidents in the future.
Hillier agreed, noting he has seen too many accidents in the area over the years and the number of young drivers involved is frightening.
“I’ve put too many people in body bags,” Hillier said. “I’m tired of going to doors and telling parents that one of their children have been killed on their ATV.”