Many of you will agree with me that for a long time now, snowmobile trails have been a bit of a “Wild West” and that the laws are more or less respected by some users. We have to deal with the lack of surveillance, increasingly powerful machines, the lack of experience of the drivers, the non-respect of the rights of way, modified and non-conforming vehicles, alcohol, drugs, speeding, and so on… To regulate everything, a law exists: the law on off-road vehicles (ORV). At the time of writing these lines, the government has just made a complete reform of the law. The last changes were made in 2010 and did not correspond to today’s reality for a long time. So we were really behind, because our favorite sport was on life support.
I’ve summarized the highlights of the legislation, which is about 50 pages long, so you’ll have a recap of what will be most useful to you.
Let’s start with the age of the driver’s license to ride on the trail and the training that goes along with it:
– we must be at least 16 years old and have a driver’s license;
– 16 and 17 year olds are also required to have a training certificate;
– To rent an off-road vehicle, you must be 18 years old, have a valid driver’s license and be trained.
We must always have in our possession and be able to produce upon request:
-his or her trail right of access;
-His/her driver’s license;
-His or her certificate of competency;
-His or her registrations;
-Insurance (minimum of $1 million for third party liability);
– and a document proving our age.
Helmets are mandatory and must be equipped with a visor or goggles for both the driver and the passenger. If the passenger is riding in an enclosed trailer or sled, the visor or goggles are not required. All drivers and passengers must be properly dressed for the sport.
Your snowmobile must be equipped with a speedometer in good condition (for vehicles built after January 1, 98), a white headlight on at all times at the front and a red position light required at the rear that are well fixed and correctly installed, free of any object or material that could obstruct them or make them ineffective. The same applies to the rearview mirror (placed on the left side of the vehicle, properly secured and functional) and the vehicle plate (placed on the left side of the vehicle as close as possible to the rear of the vehicle). If you are riding with a passenger, your snowmobile must be equipped with a seat designed for this purpose and you cannot sit a passenger in front of you.
No person shall operate a vehicle that produces excessive noise. No person shall make or have made alterations to the exhaust system. No person shall sell or distribute any equipment to modify the exhaust system. There are serious fines for doing so.
To guide or offer to guide others, you must have successfully completed a training course.
You may not ride on trails that have other uses, such as hiking trails. Snowmobile trails are marked with red posts and ATV trails with blue posts. Some portions of the trails are shared by both categories of vehicles, but most of the time each has its own trail.
Therefore, no other vehicle, pedestrian, bicycle, skier, etc. may be on these trails. An ATV does not go into a snowmobile trail and a snowmobile does not go into an ATV trail, under penalty of punishment.
Also, it is forbidden to go outside of these markers (poles) for obvious reasons, among others because the rights of way are granted only on the marked part and this practice puts our network in danger. Fines are attached to this as well. Stay on the trail.
It is forbidden to scare, chase, mutilate or kill an animal, as well as to throw or drop any object or waste.
It is obligatory to keep your vehicle on the right side of the trail, and to maintain a sufficient distance from other users and not to disturb them. It is forbidden to damage a trail.
Speed limits are 70 km/h unless otherwise indicated (30 km/h near homes) and must be respected.
Do not consume alcohol or drugs in these vehicles and do not drive while intoxicated.
It is necessary to respect the signals and stop orders of the surveillance officers. The powers of these officers have been strengthened. In most cases, they work in conjunction with police officers and can issue tickets for violations.
The majority of the amendments came into effect on December 30, 2020. Some of the changes will only be effective later this year.
Therefore, the next 2021-2022 season will be completely governed by this law and all the related amendments. It includes certain dispositions of the highway safety code, the law on administrative justice and also the law on the Ministry of Transport. It will also modify the regulation on off-road vehicles and will completely replace the old provisions of the law on off-road vehicles.
This is a small overview of what you need to do to be compliant, not only for your safety, but also for the survival of the sport. Let’s hope that this reform will give the expected results soon enough.