Okay, so you’ve called the guys, everyone’s on the list and coming up. Beer … check. Food….. check. Toilet paper….. check. Propane…. Check. ATV rental….. check! And CHECK!!!
You are all set for a fun filled long weekend in the bush to do some serious mud man stuff, fishing, eating, drinking…. It’s all good. Here’s the thing though, just because it’s a smaller version, does not make that ATV or 4 Wheeler any less of a motorised vehicle at your local Ontario Cottage Rentals, and the back trails than a full sized car. Those trails are policed as much as a hiway or major roadway. In some instances even more so…. So if you and the boys think that getting silly on whatever beer is going to be problem free, while you’re buzzing around in the bush on your brand new Honda ATV Rental, think again. “Vehicle license, Insurance and Registration Please….” “Sir, would you please get off the vehicle and walk towards me with your helmet off …. Please place your mouth over the tube and blow slowly into the apparatus….” Yup, they have R.I.D.E programs in the bush lands of Ontario too…not just on residential streets, and not just on the major roadways. In fact, you can count on seeing the folk in blue every single weekend in some areas.
Why, because an ATV is just like a car.
“Mom can I take a ride on Dad’s ATV?” This is coming from your 13 year old son. Well, he’s used it about 30 times already, and your husband thinks he has the reflexes of a cat…so why not? “Sure honey, but please put on a helmet and don’t go off the property.” Should you be doing this? If the MTO has decided that anyone under the age of 16 is too young and underdeveloped, physically and mentally to commandeer a motor vehicle, why would you disagree with that law and give in to your son’s wishes?
An ATV is just like a car. Would you allow a 13 year old to take your BMW for a spin around the block? The answer is no, you would not. But for some reason ATV’s are considered and perceived in a different manner. They don’t seem to be dangerous or life threatening. There are too many assumptions that because they are smaller, because you and your spouse are close by, because nothing has happened, and the trails are quiet, they are safe for a younger teen or kid to use.
Did you know that in Ontario Cottage Country, there are about 25% off the annual accidents for ATV’s? Hosting about a 5th of the province’s total population, where 1 in 20 are involving kids under the age of 16, that statistic says that for every 100 tourists injured in Ontario Cottage Country, 20 are kids under 16. Of the remaining 80 people getting hurt in northern Ontario, about 25-30 are kids aged 16-19, mostly boys, but some girls. And the rest about 50, are males aged 20 -27 years of age. The remaining cases in the rest of the province are situated in more urban areas, and often involve more than one vehicle, alcohol abuse, and improper use of the vehicles.
ATV’s are just like any car. You can lose control and on a busy street you are more than likely going to hit another vehicle, a post, or God forbid, a person. In the bush you will hit a 100 year old Maple or Pine. And if you hit it hard enough with a high speed, chances are you’re dead.
Years ago my spouse and I found a trail in the bush we had never used before that day. It wasn’t a new trail, but a very old one that none of our neighbours had shown us. We took it in about 20 minutes and came to what looked to be a memorial set up by another family on the south side of the lake our cottage rested on. It was a tribute to someone who had died from an ATV accident, at the age of 28 years’ of age, “its fun having fun.” Is what it said was the favoured saying of the victim. The message from the family adjacent to the young man’s photo was that their eldest son and father of two and husband had died on that trail that very year, after his ATV had hit a tree head on. He died instantly. He’d been drinking. It was how he spent every weekend since he was a teen. His parents decided that they needed to get a message out to all of the other people and tourists that frequented the area, so they would understand how serious and how dangerous ATV’s and Snowmobiles could be…they are just like any car.
I never went on that trail again. I could not continue to look at the memorial. It was too sad. But the message definitely hit home for a long time. We sold our cottage on that lake and bought another one years’ later. But that memorial always stuck with me.
Have fun, be of age, be smart and be safe.
November 1, 2012