Driving an off-road vehicle (ORV)
What you need to know to drive an off-road vehicle such as an ATV safely.
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Off-road vehicles (ORVs) are year-round utility and recreational vehicles that must be:
- display a licence plate (except in exempted areas like in far northern Ontario)
- insured under a motor vehicle liability policy
When riding on-road or off-road the driver of an ORV must carry and produce the registration permit or a true copy and proof of insurance for the ORV.
Where you can ride
ORVs that are permitted to travel on certain roads and highways include:
- single rider all-terrain vehicles (ATV)
- two-up all-terrain vehicles (ATV)
- utility terrain vehicles (UTV)
- recreational off highway vehicles (ROV)
- extreme-terrain vehicles (XTV)
- off-road motorcycles (ORM)
ORVs permitted on provincial highways can travel on:
- Highways 500 to 899
- many 7000-series highways
- highways with low traffic volumes
You cannot drive ORVs on:
- 400-series highways
- the Queen Elizabeth Way
- sections of the Trans-Canada Highway
Review Ontario Regulation 316/03 for a complete list of provincial highways where on-road ORVs are permitted as well as prohibited.
Municipalities have different rules for ORVs, and not all municipalities allow them on roads.
Before driving an ORV on a municipal road:
- check if the municipality has bylaws in place that allows ORVs on the road
- if there is no bylaw for that municipality, check whether it is listed under Ontario Regulation 8/03. You can drive a permitted ORV on the roads of municipalities listed.
You cannot drive ORVs where there is no bylaw in place and the municipality is not listed under Ontario Regulation 8/03.
Along a road
When travelling along a road, your ORV must:
- be driven in the same direction as traffic
- travel on the shoulder (if the shoulder is unsafe or not wide enough, an ORV can be driven on the travelled portion of the road)
- have headlights and tail lights on (mandatory at night and in bad weather)
Crossing a highway
Where permitted, you can drive an ORV to cross a highway only if:
- it is registered and displays a rear licence plate
- it is insured under a motor vehicle liability policy
- the driver is at least 16 years old and has a valid driver's licence of any class
- the driver and passengers are wearing approved motorcycle helmets, securely fastened under the chin with a chin strap
When driving your ORV on trails, private property or Crown land (government-owned land), ride in designated areas only. You may require a trail permit and must always have the land owner’s permission.
On roads, ORVs must travel at speeds less than the posted speed limit for cars and trucks:
|Posted speed limit for cars and trucks||Maximum speed limit for ORVs|
|Roads where the speed limit is over 50 km/h||50 km/h|
|Roads where the speed limit is 50 km/h or less||20 km/h|
Municipalities can set lower speed limits or have additional guidelines.
Who can ride
When riding on-road or off-road, drivers and passengers must wear an approved motorcycle helmet, securely fastened under the chin with a chin strap.
For on-road riding, a driver must:
- be at least 16 years old
- hold at least a valid G2 or M2 licence
- wear a seat belt, where provided
- travel at speeds less than the posted speed limit
For off-road riding, the driver must:
- be at least 12 years old, unless directly supervised by an adult or while driving on land occupied by the owner of the ORV
- carry the ORV's registration permit or a true copy
For on-road riding, a passenger on an ORV:
- must be at least 8 years old
- must wear a seat belt or use foot rests, when applicable
Passengers are not permitted on off-road motorcycles (ORMs).
There are no restrictions for passengers when off-road.
Follow these tips to stay safe when riding an ORV:
Before a trip
- get proper training by taking an ORV safety course
- know your ORV and read its operator's manual
- do a pre-ride inspection and check:
- gas and other fluid levels
- tire pressure
- let someone know where you're going and when you expect to return
- check with your local municipality to see if they have a bylaw permitting you to ride on roads
When you are riding
- always ride according to the trail, road and weather conditions
- use extreme caution when turning, crossing, climbing and descending hills
- drive sober — it's illegal to drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs
- ride in designated areas only
- respect the environment and keep noise levels low