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.
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.
The certificate of competence and knowledge is issued upon successful completion of a mandatory course.
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.
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.
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.
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 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When operating an off-road vehicle, you must always have the following with you:
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).
You can carry a passenger when driving an off-road vehicle, provided:
Unless otherwise indicated, the speed limit is:
Keep your headlights on at all times in order to help other drivers see you.
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.
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.
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.