Alix Digout January 2021
Snowmobiling is a winter activity enjoyed by many Nova Scotians, but are you aware of your responsibilities and obligations under the Off-Highway Vehicles Act and Insurance Act (and applicable regulations) when operating a snowmobile or any off-highway vehicle?
The operation of a snowmobile (and any off-road vehicle) is governed by Nova Scotia’s Off-Highway Vehicles Act. The Act defines an off-highway vehicle as a snow vehicle, all-terrain vehicle, motorcycle, mini-bike, four-wheel-drive or low-tire pressure vehicle, dune buggy, etc. A snowmobile is a snow vehicle and therefore an off-highway vehicle.
Off-highway vehicle owners require an issued permit and identification number (to be clearly displayed on the vehicle) in order to lawfully operate the vehicle. Subject to specific exceptions, off-highway vehicle operators are required to hold valid liability insurance, with a minimum coverage amount of $500,000. In addition to maintaining liability insurance coverage, the Nova Scotia Insurance Act also requires operators to carry accident benefits and uninsured/under-insured automobile coverage.
Before hitting the trails, you should be mindful of the areas where you can and cannot take any off-highway vehicles. Certain outdoor environments, including wetlands, swamps, watercourses, beaches, and protected wilderness and ecological sites (not an exhaustive list), do not permit the operation of off-highway vehicles.
Safety is paramount when operating off-highway vehicles. Section 10 of the Off-Highway Vehicles Act requires operators and passengers of snow vehicles, all-terrain vehicles, motorcycles, mini-bikes, etc., to wear helmets. The Act also requires persons, 16 years old and above, to successfully complete an off-highway safety training course. In addition to wearing helmets and completing safety courses, here are a few helpful tips for safe off-roading:
• Tell someone about your intended route and expected return time; this will be helpful if emergency services are required.
• Avoid off-roading alone – additional help and/or transportation may be required if you get injured or your vehicle breaks down or gets stuck.
• Check the weather forecast in advance of your ride and avoid going out in extreme weather conditions.
• Wear appropriate protective clothing and eye wear to minimize the extent of bodily injury if an accident occurs. Similarly, wear a seatbelt, if available, to avoid being jostled of ejected from the vehicle. Unfortunately, death and significant bodily injury is a common occurrence when an off-highway vehicle such as an ATV rolls over onto an ejected rider.
• Slow down! It is easy to lose control of your off-highway vehicle when taking turns too fast on gravel and uneven surfaces.
• Stay on designated trails to avoid getting stuck in ruts, mud, unforeseen obstacles or damaging private property and protected lands.
• To avoid trespass, seek permission from private property/landowners before operating your off-highway vehicle on private property.
• Be on the lookout for other folks enjoying the trail and alert them of your presence, especially those on foot.
• Complete routine maintenance of your off-road vehicle to ensure it is in proper working order.
These blog posts are not meant to be legal advice or an exhaustive review of the law in this area. If you or a family member have been involved in an accident involving a snowmobile (or any off-highway vehicle) or have questions about a possible personal injury claim, please contact MDW Law to schedule a complimentary consult with one of our personal injury and insurance law team.