Off-Road Safety

You are not allowed to drive your off-road vehicle on the roadway. Not only is it unsafe, but it is illegal under both the Ontario Highway Traffic Act and City of Ottawa By-law No. 2019-421.

An All-Terrain-Vehicle (ATV) is an Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) that:

The following are not considered ATVs, but instead, types of ORVs:

  • passenger designed ATVs (also known as a two-up);
  • side-by-sides (SxS);
  • utility terrain vehicle (UTV);
  • dune buggies;
  • off-road dirt bikes, etc.

Safety Tips

  • It is always a good idea to wear a helmet when operating Police on ATVyour ATV. On premises other than property owned by the vehicle owner, a helmet must be worn. Drivers should ensure their helmet meets the standards of the Highway Traffic Act, e.g. helmets certified by DOT, SNELL, or other agencies that meet the standards.
  • Take a course to learn proper ATV operation and maintenance. Visit the Canada Safety Council for a list of available courses.
  • Read your owner's manual before operating your ATV and be sure to follow safe operating procedures.
  • No alcohol or drugs should be consumed while operating an ATV.
  • Do not operate an ATV at excessive speeds. Choose appropriate speeds based on the terrain, visibility, conditions and your experience.
  • While operating your ATV, wear appropriate protective clothing.

More information:


By law, all ATVs must be registered with the Ministry of Transportation, even if operated only on your property. A one-time fee is payable at a Driver and Vehicle Licence Issuing Office. A licence plate and registration permit is provided together with mounting instructions.

ATV's may not be registered to anyone under the age of 16.

Driver Requirements

Persons under 12 years of age are not permitted to operate an ATV except on the owner's property or trails while under close supervision of an adult.

Persons between the ages of 12 and 15 years of age are permitted to operate an ATV unsupervised on public or private trails.

If crossing the road on an ATV, the driver must be in possession of a valid G2/G driver's licence or an M2/M motorcycle licence.

A helmet meeting the standards of the Highway Traffic Act must be worn when operating an ATV on premises other than property owned by the vehicle owner (i.e. helmets certified by DOT, SNELL, or other agencies that meet the standards).

Driver Liability
Both the owner and operator of an ATV (or parents if applicable) are responsible for any violations of the Highway Traffic Act and are liable for any injury or property damage caused by the vehicle.

The law requires that ATVs be insured under a motor vehicle liability policy. In Ontario, this means an automobile insurance policy. Both the owner and the driver are liable for injuries or property damage arising out of the operation of an ATV.

Personal, Universal, and Farm Liability Policies are not considered motor vehicle liability policies in accordance with the Insurance Act. In fact, personal and farm liability policies usually exclude "the operation of any vehicle subject to motor vehicle registration" such as ATVs. Therefore they would offer no protection or defense against legal action.

Before operating your ATV, verify your coverage with your insurance company.

ATVs and Children

Many ATV-related injuries are caused by children using adult size ATVs as there is a drastic difference in weight between the child and the machine. Also, ATVs have a high centre of gravity, making them more likely to roll over and land on the rider.

Manufacturers of adult size ATVs prohibit children under 16 from operating their machines. When choosing an ATV for your child, it is important to review the ATV's specifications and to take into consideration your child's size and skill level.

For safety reasons, operators under 16 years-of-age are not permitted to cross the road. You must posess a driver's licence to cross the road. Also, ATV's may not be registered to anyone under the age of 16. See also Driver Requirements for laws on youth operating ATVs.

Impaired Driving
It is against the law to operate an off-road vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs. ATV operators can be charged for drinking and driving like any motor vehicle such as cars, trucks, boats etc.

Can those visiting Ontario operate their ATVs during their visit? What if they don't have a licence plate for their ATV?

A temporary trip permit cannot be issued for ATVs however visitors can operate their ATV in Ontario for a period of up to three months, provided they carry the original or a true copy of the vehicle registration or Certificate of Title for their ATV.  In addition, visitors must have proof of insurance and a driver's licence.

A licence plate is not required on an ATV if the location where the visitor resides does not require one.