ATVs a risk on roads: Report
HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — Both Hamilton Township’s insurance company and a private township resident have laid out the risks if the township agrees with a request from the Northumberland District ATV Riders club to permit ATV riding on township roadways.
It would require a special bylaw to grant that permission – but there are ramifications, councillors were told.
It could cost millions of dollars if the driver of an ATV is in an accident on a public road and doesn’t have sufficient coverage, and the township is taken to court and found liable, representatives of Jones Deslauriers Insurance Management Inc., Meghan Callaghan and Andrea Bartel, told councillors at Tuesday’s committee of the whole meeting.
However, a lot of municipalities (including others here in Northumberland County) have passed such bylaws and they take steps to manage the risk including maintaining and inspecting roadways deemed safe for such use, plus keeping a log about the regular inspections that would be required, as well as installing proper signage that could include lower speeds on designated roads, and/or signs advising drivers to share the roads with ATVs, Bartel said.
“If something happens then the township has done its due diligence,” she added.
This does not stop a lawsuit but provides a defence, and even if the township is found only one per cent liable, it can be asked to make up the balance of the court award not covered by the rider’s insurance, councillors were told.
“I believe ATVs are a hot topic at council,” Callaghan said at the conclusion of the presentation.
There has been a request but no discussion by council yet, responded Mayor Mark Lovshin. There have been lots of telephone calls, e-mails and correspondence from those both for and against ATVs being permitted on township roads, he continued.
A staff reported with options is to come to council’s meeting on Sept 17 for a council decision, the mayor added.
A Hamilton Township resident who said she represented area neighbourhoods, laid out what she deemed the anti-safety side of the argument opposing ATVs on public roadways.
A key part of her presentation included warnings from the manufacturers of ATVs themselves providing such notices in their manuals which instruct users never to operate ATVs on public roads or paved surfaces.
She quote from a Yamaha owner’s manual which states: “This ATV is designed and manufactured for off road use only. It is illegal and unsafe to operate this ATV on any public street, road or highway.”
McFarlane also quoted statistics from the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit that revealed between 2014 and 2016 there were 275 ATV incidents in Northumberland County and 29 in Hamilton Township, with 22 accidents involving ATVs on county roadways. And she cited a position paper from the Ontario Medical Association that notes the concern physicians have about ATV accidents involving “younger patients” and one from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that states that two-thirds of ATV crashes occur on public or private roads in the U.S. where between 2007 and 2011 there were 1,700 ATV riders killed on public roadways.
“Dismiss” the Northumberland District ATV Riders Club’s request to pass a bylaw permitting ATVs on township roadways, McFarlane urged councillors.
Which argument wins out will be determined at next week’s council session, if Mayor Lovshin’s timetable is accurate.
Faye MacFarlane of Hamilton Township provided a detailed presentation Tuesday afternoon to Hamilton Township councillors about why they should dismiss a request from the Northumberland District ATV Riders club to allow ATV riding on township roadways.