Ask An Officer:
Off-Road Vehicle rules of the road
Andrea DeGagne - Provincial Constable
Off-Road Vehicles (ORVs) are operated on local roads and trails throughout our Municipality year-round. In July 2020, the Ontario Off-Road Vehicles Act was modified to allow for additional vehicle types to operate on roadways throughout the province.
This modification has spurred some community discussion about acceptable use of ORVs on provincial and municipal roadways, trails, and privately-maintained right-of-ways. The Sioux Lookout Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) would like to provide some answers to questions about the rules surrounding operation of these vehicles, based on the Off-Road Vehicles Act, R.S.O. 1990, c.o.4 (ORVA), The Highway Traffic Act (HTA) Ontario Regulation 316/03 Operation of Off-Road Vehicles on Highways (O. Reg. 316/03), as well as Sioux Lookout’s ORV bylaw (By-Law 88-15).
Q: What are the basic requirements for operating an ORV?
A: For an ORV to be operated anywhere off the ORV owner’s private property, the driver (and any passengers) must be wearing an approved motorcycle helmet with chinstrap fastened, and the vehicle must be registered and insured with a license plate visibly attached. Proof of registration and insurance must be carried with the driver (ORVA 3, 15, 19).
Q: Who can operate an ORV?
A: When operating an ORV anywhere off the ORV owner’s private property, the driver must be at least 12 years of age or directly supervised by an adult (ORVA 4). To operate an ORV on a highway, including crossing a highway, the driver must be at least 16 years old with a valid G2 or M2 license (ORVA 2(2)(a)).
Q: Are there restrictions on passengers? Can an ORV tow a trailer with passengers?
A: When operating an ORV on a highway, all passengers must be at least 8 years of age, wear an approved helmet, and safely occupy a seating position designed to be used by a passenger. An ORV can tow a trailer with a passenger while operating off-road, however, passengers cannot be in the trailer while the ORV is operated on or crossing a highway (HTA O. Reg. 316/03 S19.4).
Q: Can ORVs be operated on local roads?
A: Highways are very broadly defined under both the HTA and ORVA, and include many of the areas we think of as streets, alleys, back-roads, public forest roads and trails, as well as the adjacent medians, shoulders, ditches, and infrastructure. When operating an ORV on any land that is intended for use by the general public for the passage of vehicles, the driver and ORV must meet the requirements for operating an ORV on a highway.
Once outfitted with the proper operating equipment, insurance, and registration, single-rider and two-up all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), side-by-sides and utility terrain vehicles (UTVs), and now non-tracked “extreme terrain vehicles”, otherwise known as argos, and some off-road motorcycles can be driven on most roadways and trails throughout our area. This includes roadways within unorganized territories (O. Reg. 316/03 Schedule C), public forest roads, and roads within provincial parks or conservation reserves (O. Reg. 135/15(5)). While driving on a road, ORV operators must also adhere to rules of the road within the HTA. ORVs must also travel in the same direction as road traffic and stay as close to the right edge of the roadway as can be done safely (HTA O. Reg. 135/15 Part III).
Sioux Lookout’s ORV bylaw allows for ATVs, side-by-sides and UTVs to operate on roadways and most trails within the Municipality, so long as the operator follows all other applicable legislation. This includes all speed, noise, and parking restriction. These vehicles are restricted from operating or parking on sidewalks, Municipal recreational trails (Umfreville Trail, Cedar Bay Trail), Blueberry Hill and other municipal property, Municipal parks and beaches, cemeteries, and other privately operated lands (By-law 88-15 Schedule B), and written permission is required to have ORV races, parades, or other displays (By-law 88-15(6)). Dirt bikes, mini-bikes, and golf-carts cannot be driven on public roads or adjacent sidewalks/ditches.
Q: What is the speed limit for ORVs, and where is this found?
A: Off-road vehicles are restricted to travel at a maximum of 50 km/h on roads with a posted speed limit over 50 km/h, and 20 km/h on roads with posted speed limits of 50 km/h or less (HTA O. Reg. 316/03 22). On roads where speed limits are not posted, these are regulated under the HTA (128) to be 50 km/hr in built-up areas, and 80 km/hr on highways within the Municipality or MTO-controlled highways. ORV operation speeds should be reduced accordingly. Stunt driving regulations, as per the HTA (172), also apply to ORVs travelling on highways.
Speed limits are not strictly regulated for public forestry roads and roadways within unorganized territories that are not controlled by the MTO. However, vehicle operators everywhere must drive with due care and attention and reasonable consideration for other persons (ORVA 16, HTA 130), and not in a manner that presents a harm to any person or the environment (HTA O. Reg. 316/03 23). Criminal Code (CC) driving offences such as Dangerous Driving and Impaired Driving are also applicable on- and off- highway, as are the Cannabis Control Act, Liquor License Act, and Smoke Free Ontario Act, which restrict the transportation and consumption of alcohol and marijuana.
For more information about safe ATV operation, please visit the OPP website at www.opp.ca, as well as the Smart Ride Safe Ride ATV/ORV Handbook, available online at www.mto.gov.on.ca.
If you have any additional questions or concerns that you would like to be addressed by a police officer, the Sioux Lookout Bulletin will be hosting an ongoing column titled “Ask an Officer”. The public is invited to submit their questions to the Sioux Lookout Bulletin and the Sioux Lookout OPP may provide answers in this secure forum.