As the summer heats up, more Ontarians are getting outdoors and
making the most of the weather. A popular summer time activity for
many is riding off-road vehicles (ATVs). In fact, offroad vehicles
have been steadily growing in popularity – from a
recreation standpoint and a work use standpoint. In Ontario,
off-road vehicles are described as any two or three-wheeled
motorized vehicles intended for recreational use. In some
circumstances, off-road vehicles are allowed access to provincial
roads. However, among some other requirements, these vehicles must
four wheels, the tires of which are all in contact with the
a seat that is designed to be straddled by the driver; and
is designed to carry a driver only and no passengers.
Off-road vehicles are not allowed on rights-of-way (e.g.,
medians) between opposing lanes of traffic. They cannot operate in
a construction zone on a closed highway or within a provincial park
unless allowed by the park.
Although called off-road vehicles, these vehicles are often
driven on municipal road ways for the purpose of crossing from one
property to another (typically in rural settings). It is important
for off-road vehicle operators to be aware that there are specific
requirements for operating an offroad vehicle on a municipal road,
even if it is only to quickly cross from one property to another.
Municipalities have the authority to pass by-laws to define if,
where and when off-road vehicle use is appropriate on municipal
roads (restrictions vary across municipalities). In addition,
different laws apply to off-road vehicles driven on municipal laws
versus off-road vehicles that remain strictly on private property.
For instance, an off-road vehicle must have proper permits
displayed and the operator must have a valid driver's licence
if it is being driven on a municipal road. Off-road vehicle drivers
need to take extra precautions when crossing roadways because if
that operator is injured and if that operator failed to comply with
the law he/she may be disentitled to benefits.
As you can imagine, there are several safety concerns that
coincide with the use of off-road vehicles. There is little
protection afforded to the driver and, as a result, the risk of
severe injury is great. Combining the risk to the driver along with
the fact that off-road vehicles are often used for recreation and
it is fairly clear that off-road vehicles can be dangerous.
Hospital studies in South-Western Ontario have shown that many
off-road vehicle injuries involve alcohol. It is imperative to note
that it is against the law to drive an off-road vehicle when
impaired by alcohol or drugs. If the off-road vehicle driver is
impaired or if the driver refuses to take a breathalyzer test, the
police can lay a charge under the Criminal Code of
Indeed, off-road vehicles can be very useful and can be a lot of
fun. But it is important that safety precautions be observed. It is
against the law to drive an off-road vehicle when impaired by
alcohol or drugs; operators must observe a speed limit lower than
posted limits; passengers are not allowed on off-road vehicles; and
the off-road vehicle must have the specified equipment (e.g., head
lights, tail lights, working brakes, reflectors, low-pressure
bearing tires). It probably goes without saying, but off-road
vehicle operators must wear a motorcycle helmet and off-road
vehicle operators are advised to wear full protective equipment.
Nonetheless, from personal experience, we have seen far too many
people sustain brain injuries as a result of off-road vehicle
There are complicated rules that apply to injury claims when an
all-terrain vehicle or similar offroad vehicle is involved. Every
situation is unique, which is why it is important to review your
specific case with a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer who has
experience in dealing with off-road vehicle injury cases. If you or
someone you know has been injured in an off-road vehicle accident,
they are well advised to contact a personal injury lawyer.
Amato v. Welsh, 2013 ONCA 258 marks an interesting development in the law – it suggests the previously inviolable doctrine of absolute privilege which protects lawyers from suit may admit an exception.
As the current trend to self-representation increases, regardless the reason, one must ask if the tradition of lawyers appearing before Courts, above the Ontario Court of Justice, ought to continue the traditional legal wearing of robes.