Sgt. Stuart Foster, commander of the Lake Cowichan RCMP detachment, reminds people of the new laws around off-road vehicles. (File photo)

Sgt. Stuart Foster, commander of the Lake Cowichan RCMP detachment, reminds people of the new laws around off-road vehicles. (File photo)

Near-miss has Cowichan Lake RCMP reminding of off-road vehicle rules

New rules became law in 2015

With warmer weather approaching and more people enjoying the outdoors, the Lake Cowichan RCMP are reminding the public about the laws surrounding the use of off-road vehicles on Crown and private land.

Sgt. Stuart Foster, commander of the detachment, said an accident between a side-by-side, an off-road vehicle for two to six people, and a truck on the privately owned North Shore Road on March 11 highlights the problem.

He said the two people on the side-by-side were taken to the hospital with minor injuries from the accident, which could have been much worse.

“A lot of people don’t realize that there are many private roads and property in this area and off-road vehicles are not allowed on them without the consent of the property owner, lessee or occupant,” Foster said.

“Many people are not aware of the new rules for off-road vehicles that came into law in 2015 and we figured that springtime, when people begin using their off-road vehicles more, is a good time to remind them.”

Off-road vehicles include ATVs or quads, off-road motorcycles, side-by-sides, Jeeps, trucks, SUVs and other small-motor vehicles, and snowmobiles.

As of Nov. 1, 2015, off-road vehicle owners must register vehicles used on Crown land and clearly display their ICBC number plates or stickers.

The Off-Road Vehicle Act stipulates where off-road vehicles may be operated.

“Most notably, a person must not use or operate an off-road vehicle on the tracks of an operating railway, or on private land without the consent of the owner,” Foster said.

“Much of the land surrounding the Lake Cowichan area is privately owned. Before you head out, ensure you have prior authorization to operate your off-road vehicles and learn more about off-road vehicle laws and safety tips.”

The Off-Road Vehicle Act also requires that riders must use lights in low-visibility conditions, wear a safety helmet on what are known as “ride-astride” vehicles, including all-terrain vehicles and, where applicable, wear seat belts.

The Act also provides for increased fines for violation tickets.

For example, fines are now $230 for an unregistered off-road vehicle, and $368 for careless operation or damage to property.

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robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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