Off-Road Vehicles

What are Off-Road Vehicles?

Off-road vehicles (ORVs) are vehicles manufactured and intended for use off-road. Examples of ORVs include dirt bikes, single-rider all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), two-up ATVs, side-by-side ORVs and Utility Terrain Vehicles (UTVs).


Where are Off-Road Vehicles Allowed to Travel?

All ORVs that are properly registered and insured may directly cross public roads where permitted. However, only certain types of ORVs are allowed to travel along permitted Ontario highways and on municipal roads where a by-law is in place to allow their use. These vehicles include:

  • Single-rider ATVs
  • Two-up ATVs
  • Side-by-Side ORVs
  • UTVs

For more information on how these vehicles are defined by the Ministry of Transportation go to In certain circumstances, additional ORV types are permitted on roads (e.g. farmers using an ORV for agricultural purposes). Municipalities have the authority to pass by-laws to define if, where and when off-road vehicle use is appropriate on municipal roads.


Driver’s Licence and Registration Requirements

Riders must wear an approved motorcycle helmet that is securely fastened under their chin with a chin strap, and must have at least a valid G2 or M2 driver’s licence to operate on-road. Riders must have a valid driver’s licence (i.e. minimum G1) to directly cross a road.

Graduated licensing provisions apply to young and novice drivers when operating an ORV on-road.

To operate off-road, riders must be at least 12 years of age unless they are under the direct supervision of an adult.

To operate on- and off-road, all ORVs must be registered and have a valid permit except in exempt areas (for example, Far Northern Ontario).

All ORVs must also be insured when operated off of the vehicle owner’s private property – ORVs operating on-road must have the same insurance as a passenger car.


Rules of the Road

ORV operators travelling along a road must travel at a speed limit lower than posted limits:

  • No more than 20 km/h with a posted speed limit of 50 km/h or less
  • No more than 50 km/h with a posted speed limit of greater than 50 km/h

When operating off-road, it is recommended that passengers in an ORV not exceed the number of manufactured seating positions on the vehicle. When operating on-road, the number of passengers must not exceed the number of manufactured seating positions, and passengers under the age of 8 are not allowed on-road. Riders must also use available safety equipment, such as seatbelts and footrests.

ORVs may tow trailers and must follow the appropriate requirements to register a trailer and operators must ensure their load is properly secured.

The driver’s view (in all directions) should not be obstructed.

It is against the law to drive an off-road vehicle when impaired by alcohol or drugs.

If the ORV is permitted on-road, riders must operate on the shoulder of the road in the same direction as traffic. If the shoulder is unsafe or impassable or not wide enough, an ORV can be driven on the travelled portion of the road.


Vehicle Equipment Standards

ORVs operating on road must have specified equipment including head lights, tail lights, working brakes, and reflectors. Additionally, ORVs must have originally manufactured equipment – no modifications are allowed when operating on-road.

Width and weight restrictions are also specified in the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) Regulation 316/03.

For additional equipment requirements, please see the HTA Regulation 316/03 sections 1 and 10.


Can an ORV operator be charged for impaired driving?

It is against the law to drive an ORV when impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. When operating an ORV, drivers must obey Ontario’s impaired driving laws under the HTA as well as those under the Criminal Code of Canada (CCC).

Consequences for driving impaired include driver’s licence suspension, fines, vehicle impoundment, and upon conviction, requirement to attend a remedial education course and install an alcohol ignition interlock device in any motor vehicles you operate.

Under Ontario’s HTA, all drivers aged 21 and younger are required to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of zero at all times when driving any vehicle. If they are caught with any amount of alcohol in their system, they face license suspensions and fines.


Be a Safe and Responsible Rider

  • Take an ORV safety training course and learn how to ride from an expert.
  • Know your ORV and read your operator’s manual before riding.
  • Graduated licensing requirements apply to young and novice drivers when operating on-road.
  • Do a pre-trip inspection and check oil, gas and other fluids, lights, brakes and tire air pressures.
  • Stay in control. Never ride beyond your skill level or abilities.
  • Always ride according to trail, road and weather conditions.
  • Use extreme caution when turning, crossing, climbing and descending hills, and always cross obstacles using the proper technique.
  • Drive sober – it is against the law to drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs. It will also affect your judgment and slow your reaction time.
  • Ride with others and always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.
  • Be responsible, courteous and respect others on the trail. Ride in designated areas only. Preserve the environment and keep noise levels low.

Related Lesson Plans

Grade 9 to 12: Innocent Till Proven Guilty