As a parent of young children, I was horrified to hear the story of a 5-year-old Nova Scotian boy who died from being pinned under a ‘Youth Model’ ATV recently. Rural Nova Scotia has a strong culture of ATV use – and why not, it’s a fun and, in a lot of cases, practical way to get around. However, though the machines can provide endless hours of outdoor entertainment it’s critical to remember that they are not toys, but rather powerful and heavy machines that can have deadly consequences if not used properly.
The government has put together a structured set of rules for who can operate an ATV, where they can be operated and how the vehicles must be registered. A handbook outlining these laws is available online.
Some highlights that a lot of people may not be aware of are:
- It is illegal for a person younger than 6 years old to operate an ATV, even on private property;
- The only place a child aged 6-13 may legally ride is on a ‘Closed Course’ – again, this means kids are not legally allowed to operate an ATV on private property. An explanation of what a ‘Closed Course’ is can be found here;
- All ATVs must be registered with the Registry of Motor Vehicles;
- All ATV owners must carry $500,000 in liability insurance if their ATV will be operated anywhere other than property owned by them or their family members; and
- All ATV operators (and their parent) must have a Safety Training Certificate to legally operate an ATV.
**There are exceptions to these rules, and the law is always subject to change, so please be sure to confirm the current law to be sure you are in compliance.
As with any motorized vehicle, the benefits will far outweigh the negatives if everyone follows the rules. If you have any questions about the operation of an Off-Highway Vehicle you can contact the Department of Natural Recourses, the RCMP or your local municipal police force – all of whom have some authority to enforce the Off Highway Vehicles Act.
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