Backgrounder on why Warktimes was wrong about children as young as six being allowed to ride ATVs on Sackville streets

Mayor John Higham

During the public question period at Monday’s town council meeting, Mayor John Higham raised concerns about the accuracy of a Warktimes report that quoted a spokesman for New Brunswick’s off-road vehicle enforcement unit.

On May 20, the spokesman told Warktimes that children as young as six could be operating smaller-sized, all-terrain vehicles on designated Sackville streets after the provincial minister of public safety gives final approval to a bylaw that town council passed last month.

When I asked if I could quote him by name, he replied that I should identify him as “a spokesman for off-road vehicle enforcement” and gave me his direct office number to call if I had any further questions.

His new information led me to post the following update to a story first published on May 17.

UPDATE: Last week, I called the New Brunswick off-road vehicle enforcement branch to check on age restrictions for ATV riders operating on designated town streets. A spokesman for off-road vehicle enforcement returned my call on Monday morning, May 20th. When I explained to him that as I understood it, the minimum age to operate an ATV on town streets would be 14, he corrected me saying that under provincial regulations children as young as six could operate an ATV on town streets provided they have a proper-sized ATV (ATV not exceeding 70cc). He explained that in effect, the town bylaw extends the trails to the designated streets, so the regulations that apply in the woods, also apply on the streets. Click here to view those regulations. The spokesman added however, that off-road enforcement officers rarely see children under age 15 riding their own ATVs on the trails. Younger kids usually ride as passengers on a parent’s ATV, he said. But, he stressed that under the regulations, the minimum age is indeed six. (Note: All ATVers from ages six to 16 must pass an approved safety course and be supervised by an adult, over 19, who has also taken a safety course.) I have updated the following piece to include the new information.

Journalist Bruce Wark

On May 29, I received this e-mail from Sarah Williams, communications officer for the provincial department of public safety:

Mr. Wark, 

Thank you for the opportunity to clarify some items in your post “Sackville Town Council approves ATVs on busy streets” … When it comes to all-terrain vehicles the Off-Road Vehicle Act designates drivers on managed trails as being 16 or older.  It does allow youths aged 14 and 15 years to enjoy those same privileges on managed trails provided they have successfully completed an approved all-terrain vehicle safety training course and are driving an all-terrain vehicle that is prescribed as appropriate for a person of that age. The youths must be in the clear view of a person who is 19 or older and who has also successfully completed an approved all-terrain vehicle safety training course. Your story references children as young as six being allowed on the road. This is not the case. Regulations under the Off-Road Vehicle Act only permit youth over the age of 14 to operate off-road vehicles on a managed trail, like the one being proposed by the Town of Sackville.  The Minister of Public Safety has not yet approved this by-law and ministerial approval is required under the Act. The act is accessible at:http://laws.gnb.ca/en/showfulldoc/cs/O-1.5//20190527 The regulations are accessible at: https://www.gnb.ca/0062/acts/BBR-2009/2009-51.pdf

Sarah Williams Communications Officer / Agente des communications Department of Public Safety / Ministère de la Sécurité publique

During Monday’s question period, Mayor Higham asked if the department of public safety had contacted me about the accuracy of my story. I said I had received an e-mail from a communications officer and explained that I had made repeated calls to the enforcement spokesman’s number leaving messages on his answering machine asking him to call me back for clarification, but no calls had been returned.

Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken pointed to section 19.31 of New Brunswick’s Off-Road Vehicle Act, which states:

Operation of off-road vehicle on a closed course by young person

19.31 Subject to the conditions prescribed by regulation, an off-road vehicle may be driven on a closed course by a person who is under the age of sixteen years if the closed course is operated by an organization accredited by the Registrar.

Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken

“It states quite explicitly in there [the Act] that anyone under 14 can only ride an ATV on a closed course,” the deputy mayor said referring to Section 19.31. He also referred to provincial regulations governing closed courses.

I responded that I had read the Off-Road Vehicle Act.

“I never go by my own interpretation of a law without checking with someone who knows what the words mean,” I said. “And that’s what I did.”

I have since found the online document Standards for Recreational-Use Closed-Courses which clearly supports the deputy mayor’s position:

In practical terms, a recreational-use closed-course is an area which is designed and managed to provide a safe, controlled environment where properly trained off-road vehicle users 6-13 years of age can operate age-appropriate off-road vehicles…

Q. Where can 6-13 year olds legally operate an off-road vehicle?

A. Persons 6 to 13 years of age inclusive may ONLY operate an age- appropriate off-road vehicle on a recreational-use closed as defined in the regulation.

To read the entire document, click here.

Warktimes regrets having published an incorrect story. If the minister of public safety approves the town bylaw, the minimum age for operating ATVs on Sackville streets will be 14 as long as young riders under age 16 have passed an authorized safety course and are supervised by someone over 19 who has also passed such a course.

I have corrected my earlier story.

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2 Responses to Backgrounder on why Warktimes was wrong about children as young as six being allowed to ride ATVs on Sackville streets

  1. whitehotlovetiger says:

    Thanks for the clarification.
    How old do you need to be to ride a bicycle on public streets?

    Like

  2. Rima Azar says:

    Regardless of this particular story, I tip my hat for Mr. Wark.
    How professional and… what a gentleman, if I may say this that way.
    It is not every day that we see this level of excellence and professionalism in journalists these days.
    Imagine how it is then in those “activists” who call themselves journalists who do not back-up their stories with evidence, who do not check their sources, and… who do not hesitate to destroy reputations, careers, societies, economies, or even whole countries, etc.

    Comment from Bruce Wark: Thank you Rima. I appreciate your kind words.

    Liked by 2 people

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