ATVs should be licensed and insured

ATVs should be treated no differently than motorcycles

These comments are concerning the incredible mess the province has created over the control and insurance of ATVs in B.C.

If you Google “Alternatives for ATV Regulation final B.C. Grasslands” you will find an excellent, though lengthy, article that was prepared in 2001 by a lawyer for the B.C. Grasslands Society. The conclusion sums the situation up as being a mess of multiple jurisdictions involved without any one ministry being charged with responsibility. The situation appears to have got worse since 2001.

Although there is no legal requirement to insure an ATV, the act requires that if an ATV is to be used on a B.C. Forest Service road, the rider must take out a minimum of $200,000 third party liability insurance and possess a valid driving licence. This, of course, should (but doesn’t) eliminate the many obviously underage drivers of such vehicles. It should be noted that I could not find anything regarding the insurance of ATVs when they leave forest service roads and travel on decommissioned forestry roads and old mining roads, not to mention travelling across Crown land.

I was advised by a private insurance firm that their policies cover off-road activities as long as the activities did not contravene any B.C. laws or regulations, in which case they would consider their policies to be invalid.

This is remarkably different to ICBC, who I found does issue ATV insurance. I ascertained from their head office (and had them confirm in writing) that they consider their policy to remain valid as long as the driver was not in contravention of certain parts of the Motor Vehicle Act and the Criminal Code. The exceptions deal with such matters as alcohol offences, driving under the influence of drugs, having been convicted of causing grievous bodily harm or death, driving while disqualified or suspended. Remarkably, it does not cover offences under the Environment Land Use Act, Ecological Reserve Act, Protected Areas of B.C. Act, Land Act, Minister of Forests Act, Park Act and Wildlife Act, all of which can (and do) close areas to motorized traffic. This, in effect, allows the drivers of ATVs and other motorized vehicles to ignore any closures put in place by any of the above acts and cause large amounts of damage and only face the often minimal fines allowed under those acts.

It should be noted that, in both cases (private and ICBC), the head offices agreed that the minimum of $200,000 is woefully inadequate and would not come close to covering long-term care if someone is seriously injured on Crown land by an ATV, or for that matter a 4×4, and it puts the province and regional district in a huge liability position for allowing under-insured vehicles to come in conflict with pedestrians on Crown land and trails such as the KVR/TCT.

It also appears that the Owners Occupier Act may absolve the province from liability if someone injures them self but, given the meagre case law so far, even this is not certain. It certainly does not absolve the province or RDOS from liability when they allow under insured vehicles to come in conflict with pedestrians.

In summary, I feel that ATVs should be treated no different to motorcycles and even allowed to travel on public roads the same as motorcycles. Then they would have to carry plates the same as any other vehicle, where it can easily be seen if they have current valid insurance and be easily identified if they are seen damaging protected areas where motorized traffic is banned. At present, due to the mishmash of laws involved, nobody seems to be checking if ATVs have insurance until after an accident has occurred.

In short, before any recommendations are made regarding bringing ATV (uninsured or under-insured) into conflict with pedestrians, horses and mountain bikers, the province should be cleaning up the mess they have allowed to develop with regards to under insurance and liability issues.

Brian Sutch