Off-road vehicles are posing a problem again in Holyrood.
Ever since Conception Bay South closed off its section of the T’railway to motorized vehicles, the Town of Holyrood has experienced a significant increase in off-road traffic, as the community has become a gateway for ATV users to access the old railway bed, said Mayor Gary Goobie.
Lately, the number of people travelling on the Town’s main streets and byroads using ATVs and quads is staggering, and dangerous, he added.
Although quads and other offroad vehicles are a popular hobby for many in the province, room exists for fatal accidents, and those accidents can often be prevented by adhering to the laws laid out for such vehicles. Goobie said council actually welcomes the use of ATVs in the proper areas of town, but that concerns arise for the wellbeing of residents once the laws are broken.
“While 99 per cent of users are respectful of their surroundings and abide by the regulations, unfortunately that other one per cent is causing safety issues for both pedestrians and the travelling public,” said the mayor. “This is extremely concerning for us, and will not be tolerated.”
Goobie said there are cases of ATV drivers travelling at high speeds, doing wheelies, and speeding past pedestrians on the railbed, leaving behind a thick cloud of dust. He described this behaviour as reckless and irresponsible, and exactly the kind of thing that gives other law-abiding ATV users a bad name.
Back in 2018, Goobie and the town council put forth a resolution at the Municipalities Convention in Gander that requested the Department of Justice to review and tighten the regulations surrounding ATVs, stating that the current rules do not act as a proper deterrent.
“They get a small fine, a slap on the wrist, and then they’re back at it again,” said Goobie. “We need effective regulations that illegal and irresponsible operators will finally take seriously … otherwise, this major problem will continue, and people will continue to be injured.”
Goobie acknowledged the problem is not unique to Holyrood and noted many municipalities struggle with rampant illegal ATV use.
The resolution presented back in 2018 was met with a positive response, with 97 per cent of delegates at the convention voting their support for it.
“In that resolution, we suggested that in the event that an operator has been deemed to be driving in an irresponsible manner, then that quad should be seized until such a time that the owner or operator undergoes some kind of safety course,” Goobie added. “There, they will know what the dos and don’ts are, and they will have a better understanding and appreciation of what those regulations entail.”
Goobie said he has been approached by several ATV users in the past who had expressed their own concerns about the regulations. He hopes to meet with the RCMP in the coming weeks to plan a strategy for increasing patrols in the area.
Goobie said increasing the fines related to illegal ATV usage would be a solid first step, and that if people knew they could face thousands of dollars in penalties it would deter many from the dangerous behaviour.
As for younger adults and teenagers operating the vehicles recklessly, he said, increased fines would likely have an even bigger effect by influencing parents to keep a closer eye on what their children are up to when they take off on their quads.
Goobie said this past weekend, he and other members of council saw an unprecedented number of machines on the town’s roadways. Although he recognized that this time of year is likely peak season for people getting their ATVs on the go, it was worrisome to see so many care so little about the laws laid out for them.
“I’ve never seen so many quads in Holyrood, ever,” he said. “Quads are becoming so popular – they’re on the rise, and we’re going to see more and more of them. But, we’re not discouraging the use of quads, we’re just saying that if you’re going to be using them around the community, especially in and around the beach area and the boardwalk, just be respectful and courteous of those around you. When you see pedestrians out walking, reduce your speed … things like that. But, what we saw last weekend was high speeds, debris flying, and dust everywhere. That’s unacceptable.”