Driver Training & Recreational Experiences Guide

The background to off-highway driver training and recreational experiences using mechanically propelled vehicles.

When the Road Traffic Act (RTA) was re-enacted some twenty years ago it attempted to apply the usual and generally well understood 'road law' to all mechanically propelled vehicles (MPVs a description that includes almost everything that can be ridden in or on that moves under its own power) in all 'public places'. 

Lobbied for by the Police, this change had the entirely laudable purpose of enabling the prosecution of people acting irresponsibly in parks, open spaces and all other 'public places' where they might injure or inconvenience the public!

However, an unforeseen situation arose as the RTA also made almost all activity and sport involving MPVs effectively unlawful whether properly conducted or not as, by definition, most activities and sports took place;

  • in venues that, in law, are 'public places' even if on    private property,

  • using MPVs that did not meet road going specification,

  • often driven or ridden by people without driving licenses,

  • with behaviours, speeds etc. and performance of    manoeuvres, use equipment / trailers etc. that were not  permitted on the road . . . 

After a short period of consternation a way to re-legitimise sport and activity by providing for a system of 'authorisation' was devised.  An update of the RTA was passed that referred to 'The Motor Vehicles (Off Road Events) Regulations' which were first enacted in 1992 and then, with revisions, in 1995.  

These meant that 'authorised events' could take place without having to conform to the requirements for driving and for vehicles laid down in the RTA.

How 'authorisation' creates a new class of public place in law:

The process of 'authorisation' creates an entirely new class of 'public place' in law where some of the requirements of the RTAs are suspended and an activity may take place that includes elements of risk!  The quid pro quo of this privilege is that all reasonable steps must have been taken to minimise risk to that which is obvious and necessary and that the three categories of participants present must be aware of the increased risk and must be present and participating of their own choice.

Most competition or stunt riding and some simple 'activity' driving would immediately classify as dangerous, careless or inconsiderate driving and many competition, activity and even 'show' vehicles would not pass the requirements for road going vehicles, such as an 'MOT' or qualification for registration or third party road risk insurance. 

The process of 'authorisation' ensures that these activities may take place lawfully by providing for a structured system to minimise risk, an inspection system to discourage negligence, insistence that best practice be recorded and applied and that the interests of all persons possibly put at risk are maintained as far as is reasonably possible. An IOPD permit of authorisation also defines the curtilage or perimeters of the site, or venue and clarifies exactly where the RTA ceases to apply, particularly with regard to criminal offences such as not being fully licensed or driving without RTA insurance.  

The fact of participating in an organised event will place the activity at variance to the Road Traffic Act regulations unless the event is authorised.