ATV’s are by far the most common and most popular off-road recreational and utility vehicle – which is why it’s so important to be aware of ATV safety. A lot has changed over the years – especially with attention being drawn to the sobering number of ATV related deaths, which account for 700 deaths per year, officially ranking them as the fourth most dangerous product overseen by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
Don’t get us wrong – we love our quads, but we also love the idea of being in one piece to enjoy them. It’s with this in mind that we bring you a brief, comprehensive and helpful guide to ATV safety. While our guide is Ontario specific in regards to regulations, it’s ecumenical in its emphasis on general safety and common sense. You never know, it could save a life – or at least spare you a sizable fine.
ATV Safety in Ontario: General Rules
According to the Ministry of Transportation (MTO), an ATV is “a type of Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) that has four wheels, steering handle bars, a seat that is straddled by the driver and is designed for a driver only and no passenger.”
Only one person can ride on a single seat ATV; for passengers to be legally permissible, the ATV must be designed for two people. The MTO defines a double seater ATV as a “two-up” ATV.
All ATVs must be registered and have a rear license plate (some exemptions in Northern Ontario). Your ATV must also be insured.
Drivers have to be at least 12 years old – unless supervised DIRECTLY by an adult. Children under 12 should only ride child-specific ATVs, and again, they need to be under direct adult supervision.
Drivers must have the ATV’s registration permit or a copy of the permit with them while riding.
Drivers and passengers must wear an approved helmet (i.e. DOT or Snell).
Drivers can only cross permitted highways if they are 16 years of age or older and have a valid driver’s licence. (According to the MTO, “a highway can include a roadway, street or avenue and consists of all the land which falls within the highway right-of-way, such as the shoulder and ditch.”)
On the Road Rules
There are additional stipulations you are going to want to be aware of if you plan to take your quad on the road. Much like off-roading, valid helmets for all drivers and passengers are necessary and there are also minimum age requirements. It’s important to note that the driver MUST have a valid G2 or M2 license and be at least 16 years old.
The Need for Speed
We know the call of the off-road can be intoxicating, but if you want to stay safe (and fine free), it’s best to abide by these ATV speed restrictions:
- No more than 20km/h on roads with a posted speed limit of 50km/h or less
- No more than 50km/h on roads with a posted speed limit of 50km/h or more
- Be sure to check with the municipality you are riding in since some areas set lower speed limits for ATVs
Light it Up and Go with the Flow
When travelling a road, your ATV must have its lights (head and tail) on at all times. You’ll also need to make sure you’re driving on the shoulder of the road and in the same direction as the traffic. In the event the shoulder is not safe, or if there is an obstruction, ATVs are permitted to be driven on the road itself.
Other ATV Safety Considerations
Just like drinking alcohol and driving a car, there are hefty penalties and life endangering implications for those who imbibe and quad. ATV drivers need to follow Ontario’s drinking and driving laws that are stated under the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) as well as those stipulated in the Criminal Code of Canada (CCC).
While you are legally allowed to have a less than 0.05 blood alcohol concentration and still drive, it is simply safest to abstain all together to avoid crossing that blurry line.
When thinking about ATV safety, it’s a good idea to have an idea of where you are and where you are going before you head out. It’s also best to let someone know where you’ll be heading and, when possible, bring a phone in case of emergencies.
We know head-to-toe covering may seem a little excessive in the heat of summer, but saving your precious skin with protective clothing is one of those decisions you will never regret in the event of misfortune. We’re not suggesting you deck yourself out in leather, but jeans and a long sleeved shirt can help do some serious damage control if your quad rolls or you are exposed to the elements for a prolonged period of time.
For more information on ATV safety regulations in Ontario, please refer to the MTO ATV guide.
For information about ATV safety regulations in other provinces and territories, look here.