Yukon boy's death renews ATV regulation debate

A debate over the regulation of off-road vehicles in Yukon has resurfaced after a 13-year-old boy was killed in an all-terrain vehicle rollover last week.

A debate over the regulation of off-road vehicles in Yukon has resurfaced after a 13-year-old boy was killed in an all-terrain vehicle rollover last week.

Bradley Anderson died after the side-by-side ATV he was driving rolled over in Teslin, Yukon, on July 4. He was not wearing a helmet or seatbelt at the time, according to police.

Anderson became the fourth person in the past six years to die while riding ATVs in Yukon, which currently has no regulations governing the operating of ATVs and other off-road vehicles.

"This is a powerful reminder to us of the urgent need that we have for legislation in Yukon about ATV and snowmobile use," Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon's chief medical officer of health, told CBC News this week.

Hanley said off-road vehicle rules must address the minimum ridership age, the number of passengers that can be on an ATV, and the training, licensing and registration of users. There must also be regulations on helmet use, he added.

An all-party committee of MLAs toured Yukon communities  last year to find out what the public want to see in off-road vehicle legislation. The majority of people who took part in consultations said mandatory helmet use and age restrictions should be included.

No consensus on helmet law

The committee's report, released in March, said 76 per cent of those who took part in the consultation process supported mandatory helmet use, and 92 per cent wanted to see a minimum age of around 16 years for anyone to operate an ATV without supervision.

But the committee could not reach a consensus on whether to call for mandatory helmet use in off-road settings, after Lake Laberge MLA Brad Cathers objected to the idea of a helmet law.

Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell said Yukon's off-road vehicle regulations should be divided into two separate parts: one that addresses safety concerns, and another that deals with mitigating the vehicles' impacts on the environment.

"We're losing sight of the original concern, which was safety and remains safety, in my mind. The majority of the different user groups would agree that there are common safety concerns," Mitchell said Wednesday.

"I believe strongly that we have to be looking at helmet use and also that we need to be looking at mandatory minimum ages."

Yukon's latest drivers' handbook says ATVs must not be driven on highways or roads by anyone under the age of 16, and helmets are required.

'Best practices'

The measures listed in the handbook are just "recommended best practices," said Vern Janz, director of transport services with the Highways and Public Works Department.

"There's currently no legislation that's directly applicable to the operation of all-terrain vehicles right now," Janz said.

But Walter Brennan, manager of Yukon's Motor Vehicles Branch, disagreed. He said ATVs and snowmobiles must be licensed before they can be used on a highway, and such vehicles cannot be operated by anyone under the age of 16.

Since 2004, the Canadian Paediatric Society has recommended a minimum age of 16 for young people to operate ATVs. The society has also called for mandatory helmet use.

"Children under the age of 16 years old should not operate ATVs. That's the basic bottom line," said Dr. Minoli Amit, a Nova Scotia-based board member with the society.

"They don't have the strength, the skill, the experience to handle … motorized vehicles."