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A few reminders to help avoid a snowmobile accident this winter

This article looks at Ontario’s snowmobiling rules designed to promote safe riding along with the benefits available in the event of an accident.

For many Ontario residents, winter is synonymous with snowmobiles. Those here in Ottawa who can’t wait to get out and have some winter fun may want to review the rules and requirements before heading out in order to make sure they are ready and do not violate any laws.

Another concern is staying safe while snowmobiling. These vehicles travel fast enough to cause serious or fatal injuries in an accident. Having fun takes a back seat to ensuring everyone goes home safely at the end of the day.

The document and licence requirements

Snowmobiles are serious business here in Canada, and anyone riding one must first obtain the proper documentation to present to a conservation officer, Snowmobile Trail Officer Patrol (STOP) officer, or a police officer upon request, which includes those items listed below:

  • A valid motorized snow vehicle operator’s licence, a valid driver’s licence or a valid snowmobile driver’s licence obtained from another jurisdiction
  • A snowmobile insurance card
  • A snowmobile registration permit
  • A snowmobile trail permit, where applicable

Only individuals age 12 or older may obtain a MSVOL to ride anywhere other than private property. Even obtaining such a licence could come with restrictions based on age. For instance, anyone between the ages of 12 and 16 may only ride on dedicated and marked snowmobile trails. Anyone over the age of 16 with a valid licence may ride elsewhere with certain restrictions.

The rules to know before the ride

Before the first ride of the season, a review of the rules is in order. Riders can and cannot do certain things on a snowmobile:

  • Snowmobile riders should never drive impaired by drugs or alcohol.
  • A rider can ride on private property owned by the rider.
  • A rider cannot ride on the ploughed shoulder of a roadway.
  • One can ride on private property with owner permission.
  • One cannot ride on certain high-speed roadways, such as Queen Elizabeth Way, Kitchener-Waterloo Expressway, 400-series highways, and Ottawa Queensway.
  • A rider can ride on private trails of organizations to which the rider belongs.
  • A rider cannot ride on the pavement of public roads meant for vehicles.
  • One can ride alongside those public roads, but only between the fence line and shoulder, unless otherwise prohibited

Speed limits apply to snowmobile riders depending on location. The law also requires both passengers and drivers to wear helmets with a secured chinstrap at all times. Those towing a sled or some other similar object must use a rigid tow-bar to do so.

The rules for receiving benefits after an accident

Even following all the rules does not always prevent an accident. One thing many people worry about is whether they can receive benefits even if they bear some responsibility for the accident. The simple answer is that benefits typically remain available regardless of fault. Some of the benefits an individual may receive include the following:

  • Medical and rehabilitation expenses
  • Income replacement
  • Non-earner benefits
  • Housekeeping and attendant care
  • Death benefits
  • Miscellaneous expenses incurred by family members

Receiving the above requires careful attention to detail when it comes to filling out and submitting the required forms and documentation. With other matters to attend to such as the physical, psychological and mental recovery that comes after a serious accident, it may prove useful to leave the legalities to a lawyer experienced in financial recoveries associated with snowmobile accidents, especially since other parties may bear legal responsibility for the injuries suffered by the victim.


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