News / Edmonton

New ATV helmet law doesn’t go far enough: safety advocate

Don Voaklander says booze, seatbelt, extra riders mean all-terrain vehicle riders are still in danger this May long weekend.

File / Honda Canada

A new helmet law won’t be enough to keep all-terrain vehicle (ATV) riders safe on May long weekend, according to the director of the University of Alberta’s Injury Prevention Centre.

Don Voaklander says 16 Albertans die in ATV accidents every year.

Helmet laws tend to cut fatalities in half, he said, but because of several exemptions in Alberta’s legislation – which came into effect Monday – he only expects “two or three lives” will be saved.

His biggest concern is the exemption for side-by-side ATVs with rollover protection and seatbelts, particularly because children sometimes ride in them despite the belts being made for adults.

“We’ve already seen a few fatalities where children have slipped out of the seatbelt, outside of the vehicle, and have been crushed,” Voaklander said. “So we’re quite disappointed that they’ve been excluded from the helmet legislation.”

Voaklander said people should never bring passengers on ATVs built for one person.

Bill 36, which was introduced last December, means anyone driving, riding in, or being towed by an off-highway vehicle (including dirt bikes, motorcycles, mini bikes, ATVs and snowmobiles) can now face a $155 fine for not wearing a helmet.

Exemptions are made for anyone who is on their own property, performing farm or ranch work, on a First Nations reserve or Metis settlement, or a Sikh wearing a turban.

May long weekend often sees quad-related fatalities, being the first time many riders take the vehicles out for the year.

Voaklander also said booze is a factor in more than half of ATV deaths.

“It’s a big problem. If I was going to recommend something that people could do to be safe on quads it would be to leave the liquor in the liquor cabinet,” he said.

“The big risk group is males between 20 and 35, to be honest. They’re all drunk and doing stupid stuff.”

Calgary ATV Riders President Ken Spring said his group already mandates helments and the legislation is “definitely positive."

“One thing that we do need more from our government is enforcement," Spring said.

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