Client Groups – Young Drivers

Snowmobiles, All-Terrain Vehicles and Other Off-Road Vehicles

Here are a number of dos and don’ts when it comes to off-road vehicles—whether you are enjoying winter on your snowmobile, or hitting the trails on your all-terrain vehicle.

What qualifies as an off-road vehicle

  • SnowmobilesA self-propelled winter vehicle that is designed to travel primarily over snow or ice and may or may not be equipped with a ski or steering blade. with a net weightWeight of the vehicle and the equipment permanently attached to it, excluding the weight of its load. of 450 kg or less
  • The following motorized all-terrain vehicles:
    • quad bikes, which are four-wheel vehicles equipped with a straddle seat and handlebars (also called four-wheelers)
    • recreational off-road vehicles, which are four-wheel vehicles equipped with one or more non-straddle seats, a steering wheel, pedals and a protective structure—and all of whose wheels are driving wheels and whose net mass does not exceed 450 kg in the case of single-seat vehicles and 750 kg in the case of multi-seat vehicles (also called side-by-side vehicles (SSV) and utility task vehicles (UTV))
    • trail bikes, which include dirt bikes, enduro motorcycles and motocross bikes
    • other motorized all-terrain vehicles that have 3 or more wheels and handlebars, are designed to be straddled and whose net weight does not exceed 600 kg

Off-road vehicle legislation

Driver’s licence requirements and vehicle registration, vehicle equipment and protection for you and your passengers, the minimum age to drive or carry a passenger, speed limits, alcohol—everything is clearly regulated by the:

Fines and other penalties are also spelled out in detail in the applicable legislation.

Obligations

You must be at least 16 years old to drive an off-road vehicle

  • To drive an all-terrain vehicle or a snowmobile, you must be at least 16 years old.
  • If you are 16 or 17 years old, you must hold a certificate of competence and knowledgeThis document attests that a person under 18 years of age has the competence and knowledge required to operate an off-road vehicle..
  • To operate a recreational off-road vehicle, or to carry a passenger on a quad bike that has been modified by the addition of an add-on seat, you must be at least 18 years old.

To obtain a certificate of competence and knowledge

The certificate of competence and knowledge is issued upon successful completion of a mandatory course.

For snowmobiles

The Fédération des clubs de motoneigistes du Québec has mandated the ConduiPro network of driving schools (website in French only) to provide this training and issue the certificate of competence and knowledge.

For all-terrain vehicles (quad bikes, trail bikes, etc), with the exception of recreational off-road vehicles

Training is given by the certified monitors listed on the Fédération québécoise des clubs quads website.

Note that for complementary information on the rules you must follow when riding a trail bike in parks and on trails, you can contact the Fédération québécoise des motos hors route or refer to their website. The Fédération can also let you know which of Québec’s federated trails you can ride on with your trail bike.

For recreational off-road vehicles

A certificate of competence and knowledge is not required to drive a recreational off-road vehicle because you can only drive that type of vehicle if you are 18 or older.

Driver's Licence

To cross a highway, a street or any public road with your off-road vehicle, you must hold a valid driver’s licence.

You must hold a valid driver’s licence or probationary driver’s licence of any class, or hold a valid learner’s licence and abide by its conditions and restrictions. A Class 5, 6A, 6D or 8 licence, for example, is perfectly fine.

If you never drive on public roads and only drive off-road or on trails, you don’t need to have a driver’s licence.

However, as mentioned above, drivers who are 16 or 17 must hold a certificate of competence and knowledge.

Driving on Public Roads

Driving on public roads is prohibited, other than in the few exceptional cases provided for by law. 

You may cross a public road or drive on it—for no more than 1 km—only if:

  • a road sign allows you to do so
  • you hold a valid driver’s licence or probationary licence, or you hold a valid learner’s licence and abide by its conditions (that you be accompanied and not carry passengers)
  • the purpose is to reach a trail, service station or another public area that is accessible only by the public roadway

Vehicle Registration

You must register your off-road vehicle, even if it you only use it on designated trails.

The licence plate must be affixed to the vehicle.

Refer to the procedure for registering an all-terrain vehicle or snowmobile.

Warning

Just because your vehicle is registered doesn’t mean you are covered in the event of an accident

If you have an accident that doesn’t involve an automobile (if you run into a tree, for example), you are not covered by the SAAQ for your injuries. The fact that you paid the registration fees for your off-road vehicle doesn’t change that fact.

However, if you have an accident involving an automobile or any other vehicle operating on a public roadway, you may receive compensation for your injuries. For more information, see the section on the automobile insurance plan.

Civil liability insurance is mandatory!

You must hold private civil liability insurance for at least $500,000 to ensure compensation for any bodily injury or property damage caused by your vehicle.

Proof of insurance may be requested by a police officer, trail patrol officer or provincial officer. You must always have your proof of insurance with you; otherwise, you face a fine.

Trail Permits

A valid trail permit is required if you wish to drive your snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle on trails maintained by off-road vehicle clubs.

Trail permits are sold by the clubs in question. They can be bought in a number of locations, including at dealerships and in gas stations, convenience stores, restaurants and other stores and services with easy access to the trails.

Offences committed under the Highway safety code or the Act respecting off-highway vehicles

Offenders face:

  • fines
  • demerit points

Impaired Driving

Driving a snowmobile or an all-terrain vehicle while impaired by alcohol, drugs or medication is prohibited.

Should you commit an offence while driving an off-road vehicle, the Criminal Code applies and you face the same penalties as you would for an impaired driving offence while at the wheel of any other type of motorized vehicle.

Documents to always have with you

When operating an off-road vehicle, you must always have the following with you:

  • proof of civil liability insurance
  • the vehicle's registration certificate
  • a document that can attest to your age
  • a valid driver’s licence (if you must drive on, or cross, a public roadway)
  • your certificate of competence and knowledge, if applicable

Mandatory Equipment

For you and any passengers

  • A helmet
    The driver and any passengers on a snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle must wear a protective helmet that complies with at least one of the following manufacturing standards:
    • DOT FMVSS 218 (United States Department of Transportation)
    • Snell Memorial Foundation
    • ECE Regulation 22 (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe)
    • CAN-3-D230 (Canadian Standards Association)
    • Specifications for Protective Headgear for Vehicular User Z90.1 (American National Standards Institute)
    • British Standards Institute 
  • Protective goggles, if the helmet does not have a visor
  • Closed footwear (boots or shoes)
  • Any other equipment prescribed by regulation

Strongly recommended accessories

  • A chest protector (especially for quad bikes and trail bikes)
  • Flat-healed, anti-skid boots that cover your ankles
  • Protective clothing
  • Gloves that completely cover your hands and wrists
  • A survival kit that includes:
    • a set of basic tools and an extra key
    • spark plugs, a drive belt and antifreeze
    • a first aid kit and manual
    • a sharp pocketknife
    • a nylon rope that can be used for towing (about 10 metres)
    • a trail map and a compass
    • waterproof matches, a flashlight and a whistle
    • an aluminum-treated emergency survival blanket

For your vehicle

  • A white headlight
  • A red taillight
  • A red rear brake light
  • A rear-view mirror firmly attached to the left side of the vehicle
  • An exhaust system
  • A braking system
  • A speedometer
  • Any other equipment determined by regulation

Safety and Traffic Rules

These rules are governed by the Ministère des Transports, de la Mobilité durable et de l'Électrification des transports (this section of the website in French only).

Passagers

You can carry a passenger when driving an off-road vehicle, provided:

  • the vehicle is designed to carry two or more people, or
  • you are at least 18 years old and hold a certificate of competence and knowledge, in the case of a quad bike that has been modified to include an add-on seat

Speed Limits

Unless otherwise indicated, the speed limit is:

  • 70 km/h for snowmobiles
  • 50 km/h for any other type of off-road vehicle

Be Visible

Keep your headlights on at all times in order to help other drivers see you.

Respecting Property

You must drive on trails that are marked and maintained by off-road vehicle clubs, while taking care not to cause any damage.

You must obtain the owner’s authorization before driving on private property. Offenders face a fine.

Driving on Frozen Bodies of Water

If you must drive your snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle across a lake or river in winter, stay on the marked trail and do not venture into areas that are not patrolled by a club to avoid falling through the ice and drowning.

Crossing a body of water in early or late winter is particularly risky, especially where there are no markers.

Snow-covered obstacles, such wharves, may also pose a deadly threat, especially at night.

Useful information

Check ice conditions before snowmobiling on a frozen body of water, and be careful!

Every year, nearly a third of all snowmobile fatalities are caused by drowning.