Riding along


Socializing and safety go hand in hand with off-road vehicles

EDITOR’S NOTE: Reporter Heather Brimicombe was invited on a ride-along with members of the Pictou County ATV Association and Pictou District RCMP officers to highlight the laws and regulations for ATV use in Nova Scotia in advance of hunting season, as well as provide information on responsible trail use, how to join a local ATV club, where to ride, etc. Also present was a representative from the ATV Association of Nova Scotia (ATVANS) as well as a Canada Safety Council-Certified Instructor to answer questions. The event began with a meet-and-greet at the clubhouse in Trafalgar. The group then enjoyed a short trail ride.

Although it may not seem like it, ATV or off-road vehicle driving is really a lot about socializing and safety.

The local club — the Pictou County ATV Club — as well as local law enforcement officials are doing their best to spread a message of safety and awareness among the community and county.

The world of ATVs has changed a lot in the past few years with bigger and better machines and side by sides now more available and more people are getting into the sport. With plenty of members, the Pictou County ATV Club has its own warming hut in Lorne that connects to the hundreds of trails in the county.

“This is a big sport now and she’s growing by the day,” said Trevor Cruickshank, president of the local club. “Even last year, I looked it up. In Nova Scotia alone in 2018, there were 30 million dollars worth of new machines and accessories sold.”

Clubs are taking safety more and more seriously. According to the law, anyone aged 12 years and younger must be on a 50cc ATV, ages 12 to 16 have to be on a 90cc and anyone over 16 can drive what they feel is appropriate — although those under 16 must be supervised.

“You can’t just send them off and have fun for the day, they have to be in a controlled environment,” he said.

RCMP officer Cpl. Greg Deagle also reminds that anyone driving an ATV should have a safety course, not consume alcohol or drugs while operating as you can still get a DUI from driving an ATV impaired. Helmets are also a must. Certified instructors who can teach safety courses are listed online at the Department of Natural Resources’ website or on www.atvans.org to find one in Pictou County.

Cruickshank also reminds that even parents must have a safety course before they can help their children with the machines, whether their license has been grandfathered in or not.

With hundreds of trails through so many different types of terrain, it can also be important to know where you are riding. As with walking and hiking when driving an ATV or side by side, drivers have to obey property laws as well keep in mind that ATV trails that cut through the private property can be okay, as long as permission is given by the landowner.

Community and conservation are also big in the ATV world for the local clubs as well as ATVANS, the ATV Association of Nova Scotia. Recently, not far from the PC ATV club, a new bridge was completed allowing ATV and snowmobiles riders, who also use the trails, to pass over a brook without disturbing the wildlife and ecosystem of the water. The bridge cost around $30,000 to put in and was created by a contractor and even topped with an extra layer of wood to protect the bridge from wear and tear from snowmobiles as well.

“What we need is club members or people out on the trail to keep us in the loop of what’s going on or what the issues are,” said conservation officer Stephen Fraser of the Department of Environment. “We encourage that stuff because, of course, they are on the trails a lot more than we are.”

The local group also holds rallies twice a year with all proceeds going to local charities to give back to the community they are a part of.