With the new version of the Act respecting off-road vehicles that the government has just adopted, it has above all emerged punitive elements for inappropriate behavior. However, by digging further, we realize that some amendments are in favor of users, just to make their life more pleasant.
Thus, from now on, to circulate in the side-by-side models which are entirely closed with cab, the wearing of a helmet will no longer be compulsory. It must be said here that these vehicles look more like small cars than an ATV. Inside, we find seat belts, heating and air conditioning, power windows and more, equipment that makes it more like a car. The cabin surrounding the driver and passengers can serve as a complete protective cage in the event of an impact.
There was also an amendment favoring trappers. As the latter travel at very low speed and must stop regularly, they can travel without necessarily wearing a helmet. It remains at the discretion of each.
Also, an amendment was made for the width of the vehicles. From now on, for traveling on trails, the width allowed for a vehicle will be 66 inches instead of 64 inches previously. This new measure will lead to the development of several trails and bridges that will be done by clubs across Quebec. We must give them time to do so. So, to ensure the circulation of these vehicles, the work will be done because this change will be valid in the long term.
People who own vehicles over 64 inches, however, should check before going on a hike, at present, to find out whether the infrastructure they will encounter, such as bridges, are adequate for these vehicles.
Finally, it should be noted that the weight allowed for walking on trails will now be 950 kilos for side-by-side.
These new measures put in place respond to the new market reality, which now offers consumers larger vehicles, with larger dimensions. They are more comfortable and more stable. This is what consumers are looking for. For work, too, many vehicles are larger and offer very interesting possibilities. We are far from the first three wheels and even four wheels, which were equipped with a 300cc engine.
The general manager of the Fédération québécoise des clubs quad, Mr. Danny Gagnon, wanted to provide clarification regarding the implementation of new methods in the practice of off-road vehicles. The measure in the new law requiring that, in order to travel on a trail, a driver’s license is now compulsory for quad riders will not come into force until next September. So, you can currently drive without having a driver’s license, but remember that it is only a matter of time before it becomes mandatory.
Off-road vehicles include different types of vehicles, in particular snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles, such as quads, side-by-sides and all-terrain motorcycles. We do not yet have the final registration figures for 2020, but, by consulting those for 2019, we can see that quads are very popular. As of December 31, 2019, according to the files of the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ), 404,669 ATVs were registered compared to 207,991 snowmobiles. Over the past five years, the two together, this represents a growth of around 7.9% for registrations. With record sales this year, there is no doubt that these numbers will be on the rise.
Death and injury report
The main reason that motivated the Minister of Transport, Mr. François Bonnardel, to revise the law on ORVs, is the off-road toll of deaths and serious injuries. Between 2009 and 2019, the results are rather stable over time, a statistic that does not please anyone. There were 270 deaths in snowmobiles and 311 in ATVs, for respective annual averages of 25 and 28. The quad therefore carries more followers. Also, in terms of hospitalizations for mountain biking, during the same period, there were 6,237 for an annual average of 624. Driver behavior is a major cause of serious or fatal accidents. Essentially, excessive speeds, alcohol consumption, and reckless or inappropriate behavior account for most OHV deaths. For ATVs, 42% of fatalities had been drinking.
If we add together the networks for snowmobiles and quads, we arrive at a total of 58,000 kilometers of trails spread across Quebec. They are maintained by the volunteer clubs of both organizations. It is the largest network in the world, attracting visitors from all over the world except this season due to the pandemic.