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Helmets, insurance must haves for all-terrain vehicles

The Rankin Inlet bylaw department recently sent out its annual reminder concerning all-terrain vehicle rules and regulations and, as usual, not everyone in the community welcomed the reminder.

Both men wear helmets of sorts as Gabe Alagalak gives Matthew Issumatardjuak a speedy ride back to work on his souped-up mini ATV in Arviat on Aug. 29, 2019.
photo courtesy Romeo Ikakhik

Fire chief Mark Wyatt said nothing has changed with the ATV regulations during the past two years and, at the end of the day, most of it is just good old common sense that can prevent a lot of heartbreak.

Wyatt said both the local bylaw department and RCMP detachment uphold the ATV bylaws.

“We had our first ATV accident of the spring this past Wednesday (June 10) and the girl involved suffered a head injury,” said Wyatt.

“And that's the way things can often go when they're not done properly.

“She had a big scrape on her forehead, and she was in considerable pain on the ground when we arrived on the scene and had to transport her in full spinal to the health centre.

“You know, people complain all the time about having to wear helmets – she was a passenger on the back of the ATV – and this is what can happen, and much worse, when you're not wearing a helmet.”

Wyatt said the vast majority of people in Rankin Inlet support the bylaws concerning ATVs.

He said more people are upset by the fact there are 14-year-olds racing around town driving Hondas.

“Fourteen is the age that the Government of Nunavut (GN) has set as part of the Nunavut territorial ATV act. I met with the bylaw committee this past Thursday and we cannot arbitrarily change it at the council level. It would have to be done territory-wide.

“And the GN's territorial act is based on the Canadian act, so it's a big deal. But here's the thing – if you don't want children driving ATVs, then parents should be proper parents and not let them drive their ATVs. A 14-year-old is too young to be racing around town on an ATV. Period!

“We have some parents who let their 14-year-old children drive their trucks around town. If the parents are truly responsible, then the kids won't be driving.”

Wyatt said ATVs also have to be insured, and everyone should understand the benefits of having their machine properly insured.

He said yes, having insurance is going to cost a bit of money, but, in the long run, not having insurance could cost you a whole lot more.

“You know, God forbid it should happen in our community, but if someone were to hit a kid and they didn't have insurance – trust me on this – the parents of the kid they just hit can sue them and take their house, their car and everything else.”

Rankin is patrolled by bylaw officers, on average, 80 hours a week on staggered shifts, and officers are on call every Sunday.

Wyatt said the bylaw officers work closely with the RCMP to ensure ATV bylaws are being adhered to.

He said it's important that passengers are also wearing helmets on an ATV, and it's important that people understand why.

“If the driver of an ATV, for example, who is wearing a helmet, hits a bump and their head goes back and strikes their passenger, who is not wearing a helmet... I've seen concussions happen that way.

“Long story short, passengers can get hurt as easily as drivers.”

Anyone not wearing a helmet while riding on an ATV in Rankin could find themselves paying a $60 fine and anyone driving an ATV without registration and insurance could be looking at a $500 fine, which is more than the cost of insuring the vehicle.

“We have about six ATV accidents every year,” said Wyatt, “and, every year, someone gets hurt or worse.

“We lost a young person in a UTV (utility terrain vehicle) accident this past year in Rankin and, if she had been wearing a helmet, she'd more than likely still be around today.”