by Cody Punter
On any given day it’s fairly common to see people zipping around Rankin Inlet on ATVs without helmets, sometimes with upward of four or five people riding on the machine at once.
But as of this week, the community’s ATV users will be facing punishment for not adhering to the hamlet’s traffic bylaws.
It has been nearly two weeks since the hamlet’s fire department announced it would be launching a campaign to enforce the community’s longstanding bylaws in an effort to crack down on speeders, unregistered vehicles and people who aren’t wearing helmets.
In the announcement, Fire Chief Mark Wyatt said that bylaw officers would be issuing fines and even confiscating ATVs in certain circumstances if people failed to adhere to the regulations.
The hamlet bylaws were introduced a long time ago in order to comply with the territory’s updated traffic laws, according to SAO Justin Merrit.
“At one time bylaw used to enforce this quite strictly. We used to have a good relationship 10 or 12 year ago with the RCMP but over the years it kind of lost its enforcement.”
After going several years without being enforced, the hamlet approached the fire chief to come up with policies to ensure residents complied with the law. Council ultimately decided to use last summer as an educational campaign. While users were pulled over and issued warnings, no fines were handed out.
“This year we plan to issue fines and possibly even confiscate Hondas so parents can pick them up their kids are driving too fast.”
Among the many regulations in the bylaw is a rule stipulating that anyone riding an ATV – both drivers and passengers – must wear a helmet. The bylaw also limits the number of people that can ride on an ATV at a time to two. The only exception is children who are being carried in amauti, which do not count against the limit. It is also illegal for anyone under the age of 14 to drive an ATV.
ATV operators will also be expected to obey speed limits of 50 km/h everywhere in town except in school zones where limits are 20 km/h and, and esnure that their vehicles are registered and insured.
Fines will start at $25 for most violations including not wearing a helmet and having too many people on a machine at once, while dangerous operation will face penalties of up to $500.
Wyatt added that mini-ATVs and dirt bikes, which are popular among youth, are not street legal and should only be used on the land.
All tickets handed out by bylaw officers will be issued through the RCMP, Wyatt said.
“So once you get a ticket you have no choice but to pay it,” he said. “Or you can fight it in court if you don’t want to wear a helmet but the law is the law.”
Wyatt added that the helmet bylaw will not be enforced for vehicles on the land.
Focus on protecting youth
Wyatt said enforcing the bylaws was about common sense and safety. He said there have already been two serious accidents involving ATVs in Rankin this year.
“I’ve been to a lot of motor vehicle accidents in my life… the ones that wear helmets are usually the ones that come out a little bit better. If your head bounced off the gravel you’re probably going to sustain some kind of permanent brain damage.”
Although the laws will apply to all riders, Merrit said the hamlet is particularity concerned with protecting the community’s youth.
“Ninety-five per cent of the problem is kids driving their parent’s ATVs,” he said. “It’s summer time, they’re not wearing helmets, they’re throwing four on a Honda and going 80 km/h. It’s dangerous.”
Merritt added that bylaw will maintain its policy of not chasing individuals but that if people fleeing bylaw can be identified, they would still be liable to pay a fine.
Following the announcement a handful of residents took to Facebook to protest the measure, arguing that helmets are too expensive.
Wyatt’s response to those holding out on buying protective gear is clear: if you can afford to fill up your machine with gas, then you can afford a helmet.
He added that helmets could be bought in town for under $50 and that some stores in town currently have them on sale for 25 per cent off.
“Go buy a helmet. It’s cheaper than paying tickets.”
FACT FILE: ATV bylaw fines for Rankin Inlet
- Contravening helmet bylaw – $25
- Operation of ATV with more than two persons – $25
- Operation of ATV without certificate of registration/insurance – $25
- Unlawful operation of ATV by person under the age of 14 – $25
- Dangerous operation of an ATV – up to $500 and the ATV could be impounded
- Speeding in excess of 15 km/h of speed limit – $25
- Speeding up to 30km/h more than speed limit – $40
- Speeding in excess of 30km/h of speed limit – $75