Long weekend road and trail woes
Central Ontario ATV Club trail warden Steve Seguin rides a trail north of Barrie on Friday in anticipation of the Victoria Day holiday weekend. IAN MCINROY/BARRIE EXAMINER/POSTMEDIA
Freedom on the open roads and trails is supposed to bring you closer to nature, not nurturing a hangover in the back of a police car.
Yet more than half of all off-road vehicle (ORV) crashes on Ontario’s highways and byways last year were caused by alcohol or drug impairment.
“Off-road vehicle drivers have unique vulnerabilities… but the majority who die are their own worst enemy through poor behaviours, such as riding while alcohol or drug-impaired and without a helmet,” said Dep. Commissioner Brad Blair, commander of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) traffic safety and operation support unit.
Decreasing the odds of survival for all-terrain vehicle (ATV) drivers is riding without a helmet.
Of the 22 riders who died in collisions last year, nine were not wearing a helmet.
In 2015, six out of 14 ORV deaths occurred when the rider had no helmet on.
To overcome the misconception that ATV riders are a bunch of bareheaded rednecks rushing through the bush, safety rides on its trails with OPP are encouraged by the Ontario Federation of All-Terrain Vehicles.
Local clubs include the Baxter Severn Trail Riders, Dufferin ATV Club and the West Grey ATV club.
The Central Ontario All-Terrain Vehicle Club has more than 500 members who ride its 70 kilometres of groomed trails, said president Soren Klemmensen.
Each annual membership payment of $150 goes towards the signage, insurance and grooming of the trails, Klemmensen said.
“We have zero tolerance for people who drive while intoxicated,” he said.
“It’s a family-oriented sport and we believe people should be able to go out knowing no one’s under the influence of drugs or alcohol and that they’ll have a safe ride,” Klemmensen said.
Joe Rocco at Barrie’s St. Onge Recreation said the ATV industry has a 12-month season, with sales peaking in both spring and fall.
Machines run from $7,000 to $20,000 and with the new legal ‘2-Up’ seat – where someone can legally sit behind the driver – more families are buying one machine to share.
“With trails in Wasaga Beach and Innisfil now, as the trail system expands, it’s easier for people to use them recreationally,” Rocco said.
Yet it’s not just on the trails where open-air vehicle operators are in danger.
In 2016, 10 out of 28 motorcycle drivers killed on OPP-patrolled roads were reportedly not at fault in the crash that claimed their lives.
The previous year saw 14 of 27 motorcyclists who died were also not at fault.
At a Victoria Day long weekend road-safety blitz in Vaughan on Friday, OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said police will be watching for the four dangerous driving offences, including aggressive drivers, impaired, distracted driving and not wearing seatbelts.
To help police track drivers who flee RIDE checks or speed traps, Schmidt demonstrated the force’s new satellite technology apprehension response (STAR) launcher live by video on Periscope, Friday.
Schmidt showed how a small gate in the cruiser’s front grill opens to reveal a green laser light with two cylinders capable of shooting small pop-can sized darts at moving objects.
The officer in the car pushes a controller button to engage, or can use the unit’s fob to activate the STAR device.
“It’s got a sticky substance with a magnet underneath so it’s not coming off,” he said. “Then we can follow them by satellite GPS and track them down.”
Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Marie-France Lalonde also cautioned motorcycle and ORV riders to take extra care on the long weekend.
“This long weekend, remember that dangerous driving poses a serious risk to motorcyclists and off-road vehicles,” Lalonde said. “We all have a shared responsibility to follow the rules of the road and to operate any motor vehicle safely.
“Be safe and don’t become a statistic.”