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Off-Roading in New Brunswick: The fun and risks associated with all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles

By: Taylor Morin, Associate Lawyer

In November of 2018, a CBC News investigation determined that in the previous six years, New Brunswick had more fatal ATV and snowmobile accidents than any other Province ( ).

At the Mike Murphy Accident Team, we have significant experience dealing with victims who have been implicated in off-road vehicle accidents. Often, these cases are dealt with in the same manner as cases involving automobiles. However, over the years, we have noted several common themes in these cases. 

Firstly, accidents involving ATV’s and snowmobiles tend to result in more significant injuries, due to the lack of protection that is afforded to a person riding these small machines. Secondly, we have noted that a significant amount of people implicated in these accidents do not have insurance on their off-road vehicles. Finally, we have noticed that following an off-road vehicle accident, many people do not collect the information that is necessary to apply for no-fault insurance benefits and pursue the at-fault party. In this regard, we are providing the following tips to keep you safe while participating in this traditional New Brunswick hobby.

1) Your ATV/Snowmobile must be registered and insured:

Never operate or ride as a passenger on an off-road vehicle that is not insured. Section 3(1) of the Off-Road Vehicle Act states that all off-road vehicles must be registered and insured. Furthermore, the Act states that you must always carry proof of insurance. This is important for several reasons. If you are injured in an off-road vehicle accident, the insurance policy of the off-road vehicle must cover all of your accident related treatment costs. Furthermore, there is a wage loss benefit that is available under certain circumstances. However, if your off-road vehicle was not insured at the time of the accident, you will not have access to these benefits. This could cause significant financial strain if you are unable to work and have significant treatment costs associated with your injuries.

2) Stay off the road:

Although it might be tempting to operate your off-road vehicle on the road, this is very seldom permitted by law. Section 16 of the Off-Road Vehicle Act states that, subject to the regulations and municipal by-laws, no person is permitted to operate an off-road vehicle within 7.5 meters of the travelled portion of a highway. There are certain exceptions available for crossing a roadway, as well as for people who are engaged in the construction and maintenance of electric power or telecommunication lines/facilities. However, the general rule is to stay off the roadways. It is important to be mindful of the fact that most motorists are not expecting an off-road vehicle to be on the road, which increases the risk of injury for those who use their off-road vehicles on public roadways. 

3) Off-road vehicles are not toys:

Always drive your off-road vehicle safely and ensure that you do not permit a young child to operate one without the required supervision and safety courses. Generally, you must be at least 16 years old to operate an off-road vehicle. However, there are exceptions for teenagers to operate off-road vehicles such as snowmobiles and ATV’s, as long as they are at least 14 years of age, have completed a safety training course approved by the Registrar, are operating an off-road vehicle that is prescribed as suitable for someone of that age, and if that person is supervised and accompanied by a person who is at least 19 years of age and has successfully completed a safety course. If you are going to allow your child to operate an off-road vehicle, make sure that you abide by the Off-Road Vehicle Act and that your child has the required safety courses and supervision.

4) Never leave home without your helmet:

Section 21 of the Off-Road Vehicle Act states that all operators and passengers of off-road vehicles must properly wear an approved helmet. Even if you are going for a short drive in a familiar area, always wear your helmet. An accident is inherently unpredictable and helmets have been proven to significantly decrease the chances of suffering serious injuries.

5) If you are in an accident, as an operator of an off-road vehicle or as a passenger of an off-road vehicle, ensure that you obtain the other party’s information.

Although the aftermath of an accident can be stressful and chaotic, you must ensure that you record the following information from the other party: their name, address, the particulars of their off-road vehicle, and the name of their insurance company. If possible, take pictures of their driver’s license, insurance card, and registration. In the event that your injuries do not resolve, you will need this information to pursue a lawsuit against the at-fault party.

Happy riding and be safe out there!

DISCLAIMER: The publications on this website are intended to provide information of a general nature and not legal advice. The information contained in this publication is current to the date of the publication and may be subject to change following the publication date.

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