Ontario Laws and Safety Tips for Off-road Vehicles

Posted by Injury Lawyers of Ontario on June 03, 2020

On December 23rd, 2019, a 38-year-old Flamborough man lost control of his all-terrain vehicle, causing the ATV to roll onto its side.  The driver was not wearing a helmet and as a result, he suffered a life-threatening head injury when his head struck the road. 

Every year in Ontario, there are serious accidents involving off-road vehicles and often, accident victims are seriously hurt and sustain life-changing injuries.  Be aware of Ontario laws affecting off-road vehicles and take any steps you can to ensure that drivers and passengers are safe.

Off-road vehicles are vehicles intended for recreational use.  The catagory of 'off-road' vehicles (ORVs) includes: all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), off-road motorcycles, dune buggies, utility terrain vehicles (UTVs) and amphibious ATVs.**

Ontario Laws that apply to Off-road Vehicles

  • Drivers must be at least 12 years of age, unless driving on the vehicle owner’s land or under an adult’s close supervision.
  • ORV’s cannot be driven on public roads, including shoulders and ditches (except for specific exceptions)
  • If driving on a public road, the driver must be 16 or older and have a valid Ontario driver’s licence.
  • The vehicle must be registered with Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation within six days of ownership.
  • The owner must be 16 years of age or older.
  • The vehicle licence plate must be attached to the front of two- or three- wheeled vehicles or the rear of four-wheeled vehicles. And, permits must be carried with the vehicle.
  • ORV’s must have vehicle liability insurance unless driven on the owner’s land.
  • Approved motorcycle helmets must be worn by all riders.
  • Vehicles should not be driven in a way that destroys the natural environment.
  • A driver cannot be impaired by alcohol or drugs.
  • You must report a collision on a public highway if someone is injured or damage exceeds $2000.
  • ORV drivers can be charged with careless driving if they drive recklessly and don’t take due care around other people or property.

Safety tips for Off-road Vehicle Use

  • Wear a face shield or googles to protect your face and eyes from sun, wind and branches, as well as long sleeves and pants.
  • Wear bright, visible clothing for maximum visibility.
  • Don’t take passengers if the ORV is designed for one person.
  • Prospective drivers should read the owner’s manual.
  • To prepare for a trip:
    • Ensure the vehicle is in good working condition before you go. This includes checking the brakes, fuel and oil levels, tire condition and pressure, and lights.
    • Tell someone where you will be going and when you expect to return.
    • Don’t go alone – go with a buddy.
    • Take along a first-aid kit and vehicle repair kit.
    • Take a map, compass or GPS, flashlight, and extra fuel on longer trips.

Additional Laws affecting ATV’s

All-terrain vehicles are ORV’s with four wheels (all touching the ground), steering handlebars and a seat that is straddled by the driver.

ATV’s may be driven on the shoulder of some sections of Ontario highways (but generally not series 400 highways or the Trans Canada) under the following circumstances: the vehicle weighs 450 kms or less; is 1.35 meters or less wide; is designed to carry no passengers; and meets Motor Vehicle Safety Act requirements.   If you qualify and are driving on the shoulder, you must travel in the same direction as traffic. 

ATV’s are not allowed on municipal roads unless the municipality has enacted a bylaw to permit access by ATV’s.

Where an ATV is allowed on a public road or highway, the vehicle must obey all licensing and operational laws (including not carrying passengers and wearing a motorcycle helmet).  Also, the ATV must be driven at lower than the posted speeds: where the speed limit is 50 km/hr or less, the ATV cannot exceed 20 km/hr; and for speed limits over 50 km/hr, the ATV cannot exceed 50 km/hr.

**Note that the following vehicles do not require registration as ORV’s: golf carts, farm vehicles, road-construction vehicles and motorized wheelchairs.


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