Spike in off-road vehicle fatalities caused by drinking, not wearing helmet: OPP

Spike in off-road vehicle fatalities caused by drinking, not wearing helmet: OPP

TORONTO — Provincial police are telling drivers to put down their drink this weekend whether they’re on — or off — the road.

Deaths involving off-road vehicles — which range from scooters and golf carts to ATVs and quads — have spiked across the province with 10 so far this year, police said Friday.

Sgt. Dave Woodford called the deaths “alarming,” and said the toll includes one fatality on Thursday and two on Aug. 12.

The deaths were largely caused by impaired driving and drivers not wearing safety equipment, with alcohol identified as a factor in five of the deaths, and drivers not wearing helmets in six crashes.

Police have not released off-road fatality figures for 2012, but there were 14 in all of 2011, two of them in which alcohol was a factor.

Off-road vehicles have become popular as they are relatively inexpensive and have a wide variety of uses and styles, including some that can be driven by children, said Sgt. Dave Woodford.

“They’re very inexpensive, and kids like them, and some parents like to them, and sometimes you get carried away. It happens very easily,” Woodford said.

But while drivers often think that drinking and driving is less dangerous on an all-terrain vehicle, it is just as risky as when operating a car or boat, he said.

“They don’t realize the consequences … no matter what type of vehicle, whether it’s a scooter, or a motorcycle, car, boat, ATV, snowmobile,” he said.

Woodford said if you’re drinking “you shouldn’t be operating that motor vehicle, because that’s when things happen.”

Accidents that seem minor can turn dangerous, Woodford said, because it’s easy to lose control of a small vehicle, which is often liable to roll and crush a driver.

And when the driver isn’t wearing a helmet, crashes quickly become fatal.

Woodford said police are also urging drivers who will be using ATVs during hunting season this autumn to exercise caution.