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A row of ATVs are on a dirt road. Two RCMP cruisers with their red-and-blue lights on are in the background.

Simple tips for safe ATV riding

Cst. Jerry Goudie of RCMP Traffic Services Labrador encourages all-terrain riders to stay off the main roads and be aware of their surroundings. Credit: RCMP


All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are an important part of outdoor life for many Canadians — they're fun to ride, have practical uses and can get you places that you otherwise might not access.

But ATVs are also powerful machines that deserve an operator's complete attention.

"People need to remember you're still driving a motor vehicle that you need to operate safely," says Cst. Jerry Goudie of RCMP Traffic Services Labrador. "When you're on a trail, you have to know your machine and be aware of your surroundings."

Throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, ATV riding is a popular recreational pastime. The machines are used to access the backcountry — much of it Crown land so right of entry is available to everyone — so people can get to their cabins, pick berries and hunt.

Goudie, who's based in Happy-Valley Goose Bay, N.L., grew up riding and has been preaching safe usage for years. He reminds riders that the law requires helmets be worn and he doesn't like to see ATVs on town roads and highways.

"They're ATVs, meaning they're not meant to be driven on pavement. They can be difficult to control on the (paved) roads," says Goudie.

At the other end of the country, in the British Columbia Interior, Cpl. Robert Welsman is seeing more ATV riders as cottages open and the weather warms.

ATV users flock to the forestry town of Barriere to take advantage of easy access to backcountry paths, groomed and well-maintained riding trails, and old logging roads.

"You can probably access thousands of kilometres of trails from here," says Welsman, detachment commander in Barriere, located about 65 kilometres north of Kamloops.

He says all members of the four-person detachment completed ATV-safety training in 2019 and officers will complete proactive patrols this summer. They recently took to the back-road trails with the local B.C. Conservation Officer Service to conduct safety patrols.

"One of my biggest concerns about all those riders' safety is alcohol use," says Welsman. "The trails here can get so busy and you have to be alert."

RCMP officers across Canada are also working during a pandemic, when special measures such as physical distancing are in place to protect the public from COVID-19.

"When riders stop for a break or finish their rides, they're going have to follow the social distancing rules and govern their own behaviour to protect themselves," says Welsman. "We can't be everywhere but we will be watching."

ATV safety tips

  • Don't drink or do drugs, and drive. Report others who do.
  • Always wear a helmet and other protective clothing.
  • Obey trail rules.
  • Bring the proper licence, registration and other required permits with you.
  • Be aware of your surroundings, especially wildlife.
  • Use caution when driving at night.
  • Monitor the weather and pack an emergency kit.
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