Responsible use of Off Road Vehicles

September 2, 2022 – Sgt. Dave Moffatt, Off Road Vehicle Coordinator of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) reports that 19 people have already died in off road vehicle collisions this year. FOCA encourages all riders to watch a quick but important reminder about off road vehicle safety in this Twitter video posted by the OPP.

June 2021 – the Canadian Council on Invasive Species and the North American Invasive Species Management Association encourage you to follow these “PlayGleanGO” tips if you ride ATVs, ORVs or snowmobiles:

  • REMOVE plants, insects, and mud from your boots, gear, and pets
  • CHECK your tires on bikes and ATVs and remove any plant parts before moving to a new area
  • CLEAN your gear before entering and leaving a recreation site
  • STAY on designated roads and trails
  • LEARN to identify common invasive species and report them.

Message from OPP March 2021

Conservation lands and County Forest properties contain many important natural features and thousands of species of plants, animals, fish, birds, and other wildlife. Some species that live on the properties are classified as species of concern, rare, or endangered. It is important that we protect these areas and their inhabitants in their natural state. Off-road Vehicles (ORVs) are generally NOT permitted on these properties because they can cause substantial damage to these sensitive natural areas. They can cause damage to the forest floor, disturb wetlands, and threaten the health of ecosystems. Off-road vehicle use is also known to increase the spread of invasive species, which have a negative impact on the native species that live there.

ORVs are also not permitted on trails that are maintained by snowmobile clubs. In Ontario, volunteers and non-profit clubs maintain a snowmobile trail network of 30,000 km. The trail network provides access to rural communities and services, connections to neighbouring regions, and up to $3.3 billion in economic activity each year. Thanks to 18,000 generous landowners, the vast majority of snowmobile trails cross private property in southern Ontario. Snowmobile trails on private property are a privilege that volunteers and clubs work hard to maintain. Trespassing wheeled vehicles are the greatest threat to the trail system in our area. This illegal behaviour damages the trails in the winter and angers private property owners in the off-season.

Snowmobile clubs and landowners have entered into land-use agreements and are covered by comprehensive liability insurance. ORV operators are not covered under this insurance. Ontario law requires snowmobilers to purchase permits and these funds are used to build and maintain the trails. Landowners are also compensated by the snowmobile clubs for any damage to their property.
Any individual found to be operating an ORV on ORCA or OFSC properties may be charged under the Off-Road Vehicles Act, Trespass to Property Act or the Criminal Code of Canada. ORV’s are permitted to be driven only on private property where the vehicle is owned or where permission has been granted by the owner of the property. If permission has been granted, proof of such permission must be carried with the driver of the ORV at all times.

Basic safety tips for ORV operators:
• Take an ORV safety course and learn to ride from an expert.
• Know your ORV and read its operator’s manual before you ride.
• Graduated licensing requirements apply to young and novice drivers when driving on-road.
• Complete a pre-ride inspection and check lights, brakes, tire pressure, oil, gas and other fluid levels.
• Stay in control – never ride beyond your skill level or abilities.
• Always ride according to trail, road and weather conditions.
• Use extreme caution when turning, crossing, climbing and descending hills – always cross obstacles using the proper technique.
• Drive sober – it’s against the law to drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs – they will affect your judgement and slow your reaction time.
• Ride with others and always let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return.
• Be responsible and courteous. Respect others on the trail.
• Ride in designated areas only.
• Preserve the environment and keep noise levels low.

• An ORV must be registered and display a rear licence plate except in exempt areas, such as far northern Ontario. ORV must also be insured under a motor vehicle liability policy. For off-road driving, the driver must be at least 12 years of age, unless they are under the direct supervision of an adult. For on-road driving, the operator must be at least 16 years of age and hold a valid G2 or M2 licence or greater.
• The Off-Road Vehicles Act of Ontario specifies that drivers and passengers must wear a helmet unless the vehicle is driven on property owned by the person driving the ORV. The driver and passenger must wear an approved motorcycle helmet that is securely fastened under the chin with a chin strap.
• Excess weight on the rear carrier rack of an ORV may cause it to tip backwards when climbing hills with even the slightest grade. Caution should be used when using an ORV for hauling.
• Never carry a passenger, unless the ORV is designed for two people.
• Always be prepared for the unexpected. Carry a tool kit, first aid supplies, tow rope, flashlight, tire repair kit, high-energy food and a fully charged cell phone. Also carry a map, compass or GPS unit, and know how to use them.

Visit the Ministry of Transportation ( and your local township website for more information regarding ORVs.

Ontario municipalities still have to pass by-laws to allow off-road vehicles onto municipal roads and highways, but effective July 1st, 2015, more types of these vehicles will be allowed to drive on the shoulders of Ontario’s public roads.

Currently only ATV’s that are manufactured to carry single riders are allowed on public roads, but the new rules will also allow for ‘two up’ ATVs, side-by-side ATVs, and utility terrain vehicles.

July 1st until September 1st, 2015  is being considered an “education period.”

“Our government recognizes the importance of a vibrant, sustainable and safe power sports sector in Ontario, and we support providing Ontarians with more options to safely explore our vast province,” said Steven Del Duca, Minister of Transportation, in a statement.

“We’re announcing this now so that municipalities will have time to adjust their own regulations accordingly,” said Sudbury MPP Glenn Thibeault in a press release.

New safety requirements were also recently announced:

  • all riders, including drivers and passengers, will be required to wear helmets and use a seat belt or foot rest where applicable
  • operators of ATVs and ORVs along a road or highway must hold at least a G2 or M2 driver’s license, and
  • vehicles must be registered and insured.

See also:

Ontario ATV Guide cover 2015June 8, 2015 – Ontario Ministry of Transportation News Release on ATV rules update

Download Ontario’s current Smart Ride Safe Ride guide (pdf; 10 pages)


Wolverine image above, courtesy Yamaha Canada

Terry ReesResponsible use of Off Road Vehicles