While the joy of driving a snowmobile might lead some to think of them as little more than “another toy,” snowmobile safety is a serious topic. Ontario has legislation devoted to the regulation of snowmobiles. 

Whether you’re familiar with Ontario’s Motorized Snow Vehicles Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. M.44 (which governs the operation of snowmobiles) or not, understanding the rules and regulations around snowmobiles – and snowmobile safety – is essential for enjoying snowmobiles safely and avoiding snowmobile accidents

Rules and Laws for Snowmobile Safety in Ontario 

What rules do snowmobile drivers need to know about? Below, we’ll outline some basic rules regarding snowmobile operations in Ontario. 

Most of the rules apply to snowmobile operators on public lands. If you are operating your snowmobile on your land, many rules will only apply to you if specified. However, we strongly advise snowmobilers to follow the rules regardless of where they’re operating their snowmobile to minimize risk and preserve their rights if injured. For example, you will not be eligible for accident benefits if you do not have insurance for your snowmobile and are injured in a snowmobile accident. 

Who Can Operate a Snowmobile? 

To legally operate a snowmobile in Ontario, you must be over 16 and possess a valid Ontario driver’s license. 

However, you can still operate a snowmobile if you are 12 or older and do not possess a valid Ontario driver’s license if you complete the Ontario Snowmobile Safety Course and obtain your Motorized Snow Vehicle Operator’s Licence. 

To operate a snowmobile, you’ll also need a permit. You will need to carry your permit with you when operating your snowmobile.

Where Can I Drive My Snowmobile? 

Snowmobile operators may have restrictions on where they can operate a snowmobile, depending on their age and license, as follows:

  • Snowmobilers under 12: private property only
  • Snowmobilers between 12 and 15: private property and snowmobile trails
  • Snowmobilers 16 and over: private property, snowmobile trails, and across roads and on roadways (when permitted) 

Do I Need a Permit to Operate a Snowmobile? 

Specific trails (like recreational OFSC Prescribed Snowmobile Trails) require snowmobilers to carry a trail permit. Like a snowmobile permit, snowmobilers must bring their trail permit with them while operating their snowmobile on designated trails. 

Do I Need Insurance to Operate a Snowmobile? 

Snowmobile operators must have a motor vehicle liability policy for their snowmobile and must not allow anyone else to drive the snowmobile if it is uninsured. Failing to obtain insurance and carry your insurance documents with you will result in a fine between $200-1,000. 

Do I Need Safety Gear to Operate a Snowmobile? 

Snowmobile operators are required to wear a helmet and ensure the chin strap of the helmet is securely fastened under their chin. 

Does Ontario Have Snowmobile Speed Limits? 

Yes, speed limits apply to snowmobiles in Ontario. 

Snowmobilers are expected to go at most 50 km/hr on trails or highways where the speed limit is greater than 50 km/hr for other motor vehicles. The speed limit drops to 20 km/hr for snowmobilers in public parks or highways, where the speed limit is 50 km/hr or less for other motor vehicles. 

How Are Snowmobile Accidents Handled in Ontario?

From a personal injury perspective, snowmobile accidents in Ontario are handled similarly to other motor vehicle accident claims. As snowmobilers are required to carry insurance, you will be entitled to accident benefits if an accident occurs (even if another party is not involved; for instance, if you are involved in a single-vehicle accident). 

If you are involved in an accident for which another person is at-fault, you can bring a personal injury claim against them if you suffer damages or losses. 

Note that if you own a snowmobile that was involved in an accident while another person was operating it with your consent, you are jointly and severally liable for any injuries or losses arising from that accident. 

Do I Need to Report Snowmobile Accidents? 

Suppose you are involved in or witness an accident while snowmobiling, and the personal injuries or damages to property arising from the accident exceed $400. In that case, you are required to report the accident to a police officer and provide them with the names and addresses of the parties involved, the date and location of the accident, and the circumstances under which the accident occurred. 

Avoid Snowmobile Accidents in Ontario with our Safety Tips 

The best way to avoid snowmobile accidents is prevention – that is, doing everything you can to make your snowmobile experience safe for yourself and others. Here are a few tips to help make your snowmobile outings enjoyable and safe: 

  • Take a snowmobile safety course: even if you aren’t required to take it, Ontario’s Snow Mobile Safety Course is essential for snowmobilers. 
  • Bring the appropriate gear: in addition to a helmet, ensure you are wearing weather-appropriate clothing and carrying other gear depending on your location. For example, if you are planning to operate your snowmobile on a frozen lake or river, be sure to wear a personal floatation device. 
  • Carry safety equipment: at a minimum, pack a first-aid kit and survival kit.
  • Research your route: no matter where you plan to go, put the time into checking weather and trail conditions to avoid inclement weather and other surprises. 
  • Tell a friend: leave a trip plan with a friend or family member in case the unexpected happens.  
  • Don’t drink and drive: like motor vehicles, it’s illegal to operate a snowmobile if you’re impaired – not to mention extremely unsafe. You can face the same types of penalties for impaired snowmobiling as you would for impaired driving and if convicted, you could even lose your motor vehicle driving privileges. 

For more information on snowmobile safety, review the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s Official Driver’s Handbook – Snowmobiles. The Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs is also a great resource for learning more about snowmobiling in Ontario. 

Skilled Personal Injury Lawyers Serving Eastern Ontario and North Bay

At Tierney Stauffer LLP, our skilled personal injury lawyers have the knowledge to handle a variety of personal injury claims, regardless of how the accident happened. Non-traditional accidents, such as snowmobiling accidents, can involve special legal issues that require the attention of an experienced personal injury lawyer

We have the skills and resources necessary to tackle these complicated issues so you can focus on your recovery. Call us at 1-888-799-8057 or contact us online to set up a free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury lawyers


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