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Home > Off-Highway Vehicles > Safety > Snowmobiles

Snowmobiles - Towards sustainable development in the practice of snowmobiling.There were 173,519 licensed snowmobiles in Québec in 2009. For the many enthusiasts who visit from all over North America and Europe, the 32,000 kilometers of trails in Québec make it the ideal snowmobiling destination.

Unfortunately, this picture is marred by an excessive number of accidents that result in serious or fatal injuries.

For close to 10 years now, the reports issued by the Office of the Chief Coroner have clearly indicated that speeding, alcohol abuse, and carelessness are the main causes of fatal snowmobile accidents, both on public roads and on off-road trails .

In 1996, after consulting with stakeholders, Ministère des Transports (MTQ) asked the National Assembly to adopt the Act respecting off-highway vehicles. This legislation brought in rules governing the use of all OHVs, including snowmobiles, in order to ensure user safety and counter the increasing number of serious accidents and deaths.

In 2006, the Act was amended to tighten rules and improve coexistence between snowmobile trail users and neighbouring residents.

In 2009, the Act respecting off-highway vehicles was amended again, notably to allow the Minister of Transport to authorize the carrying out of pilot projects aimed at testing the use of a vehicle or of equipment related to its operation or safety.

Comparative Table of the Number of Licensed
Snowmobiles and Deaths1  Resulting from Accidents in Québec

 

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Deaths

23

17

30

21

23

28

Snowmobiles

154,603

161,606

168,431

173,519

175,074

172,938

Retour au texte.(1) Data may change after review of coroners' reports determining whether death is truly attributable to the use of these vehicles.

Main Provisions of the Act
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Safety Helmet

Wearing a safety helmet is compulsory at all times, regardless of where you operate a snowmobile.

Minimum Age and Training

The minimum age for operating a snowmobile is 16. In addition, a certificate of competence is compulsory for riders aged 16 and 17. This certificate is issued by Fédération des clubs de motoneigistes du Québec after the completion of a training course.

Speed Limit

Unless otherwise indicated, the speed limit for snowmobiles is 70 km/h. The speed limit is reduced to 30 km/h within 30 m of a residence, even if no signs are posted.

Mandatory Equipment

Snowmobiles must have the mandatory safety equipment, and removing or modifying it is prohibited. It is also illegal to modify the muffler of a snowmobile or any of its components.

Riding on Public Roads and Driver's Licence

Every year, approximately one-third of fatal snowmobile accidents occur on public roads.

  • Except as provided in the Act respecting off-highway vehicles, it is illegal to operate a snowmobile on public roads.
  • Snowmobiles can only cross or drive on public roads at authorized locations that are identified by the appropriate traffic signs.
  • Only the manager of the road network (MTQ or the municipality) can authorize the use of a public road.
  • A snowmobile operator must hold a valid driver’s licence in order to use a public road under the conditions set out in the Act.

Riding Near Inhabited Areas

It is illegal to ride within 30 meters of a dwelling, a health establishment, or an area that is reserved for cultural, educational, or sports activities. However, the Act provides for certain exceptions. Snowmobiles must slow down when approaching one of these locations, and be careful not to make too much noise, especially at night!

Insurance

All snowmobile owners must hold a minimum of $500,000 in third-party liability insurance. Pursuant to the Automobile Insurance Act, the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) does not compensate snowmobilers for accidents unless a moving automobile is involved. It is recommended that snowmobile owners take out a personal insurance policy that provides coverage for bodily injury and property damage.

Safety
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The Federation’s clubs are required to develop, maintain, and mark their trails in order to improve safety. As a result, these trails form an extensive and safe network.

Driving on Bodies of Water

If you must drive on a lake or river, stick to marked areas that are patrolled by a club. Crossing a body of water in early or late winter is particularly risky, especially in unmarked areas. Obstacles that are hidden by snow, such as docks, can become death traps, especially at night. Every season, close to one-third of snowmobile deaths are caused by drowning.

Survival Kit

Be prepared, and carry a basic survival kit that includes the following items:

  • Basic toolkit and spare key
  • Spark plugs, drive belt, and antifreeze, as required
  • First-aid kit and manual
  • Sharp pocket knife, saw, or hatchet
  • Nylon rope that can be used for towing (approximately 10 meters long)
  • Trail map and compass
  • Waterproof matches, flashlight, and whistle
  • Light aluminum blanket

There is no guarantee that a cell phone will be reliable outside of urban areas or far from major highway corridors. Therefore, it is a good idea to carry a topographic map. It may also be useful to bring along a GPS receiver (satellite tracking system/global positioning system) to help you find your way in the woods.

Trail Security Officers

To ensure your safety, trail security officers patrol trails to enforce compliance with the Act and its regulations. Both trail security officers and provincial patrol officers are volunteers who have been recruited to ensure the safety of snowmobilers. They must meet specific selection criteria as set out in the law.

When they observe an offence, trail security officers and provincial patrol officers can fill out a general violation report, which results in the issue of a violation notice. The work of trail security officers requires know-how and dedication, and they deserve your respect and full cooperation.

Hand Signals

There is a very simple system of signals that all snowmobilers should know and use when riding on the trails. These hand signals have been approved by the Canadian Council of Snowmobile Organizations (CCSO), and they allow you to convey essential information to other snowmobilers who are following or approaching you.

Right Turn Left Turn Slow Down Last Snowmobile
Silhouette of a snowmobiler signalling a right turn. Silhouette of a snowmobiler signalling a left turn. Silhouette of a snowmobiler signalling a warning or caution. Silhouette of a snowmobiler signalling his is the last sled in line.
Left arm raised to shoulder height, elbow bent, forearm vertical, and hand open. Left arm extended straight out from the shoulder and pointing in the direction of the turn. Left arm extended out and down from the side of the body with a downward flapping motion as a warning signal. Raise the forearm and make a fist at the shoulder.
Oncoming Snowmobile Snowmobiles Following Stop
Silhouette of a snowmobiler signalling oncoming sleds. Silhouette of a snowmobiler signalling sleds following. Silhouette of a snowmobiler signalling a full stop.
Left arm raised to shoulder height, elbow bent and forearm vertical, wrist bent, move the arm from left to right above the head, indicating the right side of the trail. Arm raised, elbow bent, and thumb pointing backward, like a hitchhiker, move the arm from front to back above the shoulder. Arm raised vertically and open hand(1).

Respecting the Environment and Property
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Respecting the Environment

Snowmobiling is a privilege. In light of this, it is important that users act in a manner that shows consideration for neighboring residents and the environment. Always be sure to respect neighboring residents, the environment, and wildlife.

Respecting Property Rights

MTQ expects you to obey the law and be civic-minded, and asks you to travel on the trails that are marked and maintained by the clubs in your federation. Unfortunately, snowmobilers do occasionally damage the fences installed by MTQ along road rights-of-way in order to travel off marked trails and operate illegally on public roads. The fences and other installations are there for a reason and are intended to ensure your safety and that of road users.

In addition, you must obtain the owner’s permission to ride on private property. Infractions are subject to a fine of $250 to $500.

Fines
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The Act respecting off-highway vehicles provides for fines ranging from $100 to $1,000:

  • $100 to $200 for crossing a public road at a location that is not authorized by a road sign, or for driving within 30 meters of a dwelling
  • $250 to $500 for not being in possession of an insurance certificate
  • In the case of a person having authority over a child under the age of 16 years, $500 to $1,000 for permitting or tolerating the operation of a snowmobile by this child, and in the case of the owner or custodian of a snowmobile with authority over a child under the age of 18, permitting or tolerating the operation of a snowmobile by this child when this child does not hold a certificate of competence
  • Graduated fines for exceeding the speed limit

Schedule of Fines for Speeding Violations

 

Snowmobile

All-terrain Vehicle

Maximum speed (s. 27)

70 km/h

50 km/h

Excessive speed range and fine
Category 1

71 to 74 km/h
75 to 79 km/h
80 to 84 km/h
85 to 89 km/h
90 km/h

$25
$35
$45
$55
$65

51 to 54 km/h
55 to 59 km/h
60 to 64 km/h
56 to 69 km/h
70 km/h

$25
$35
$45
$55
$65

Excessive speed range and fine
Category 2

91 to 94 km/h
95 to 99 km/h
100 km/h

$85
$100
$115

71 to 74 km/h
75 to 79 km/h
80 km/h

$85
$100
$115

Excessive speed range and fine
Category 3

101 to 104 km/h
105 to 109 km/h
110 to 114 km/h
115 km/h

$145
$165
$185
$205

81 to 84 km/h
85 to 89 km/h
90 to 94 km/h
95 km/h

$145
$165
$185
$205

Excessive speed range and fine
Category 4

116 to 119 km/h
120 to 124 km/h
125 to 129 km/h
130 km/h

$250
$275
$300
$325

96 to 99 km/h
100 to 104 km/h
105 to 109 km/h
110 km/h

$250
$275
$300
$325

Excessive speed range and fine
Category 5

131 to 134 km/h
135 to 139 km/h
140 km/h +

$385
$415
$445
and up

111 to 114 km/h
115 to 119 km/h
120 km/h +

$385
$415
$445
and up

Fines for Other Infractions

 Selling a non-conforming exhaust system(2)

$250 to $500

 Riding on private property

 Short-term rental of an overpowered OHV

 Failure to obey an order to stop

Remember that the primary purpose of the Act respecting off-highway vehicles is to ensure your safety and that of others. The use of snowmobiles will continue to grow in the future as long as we can ensure that riders can enjoy this activity safely.

Financial Assistance Program for Snowmobile Clubs
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Return to the text(1) In some places, the STOP signal may be made with the right arm because the left hand is used to activate the brakes. In either case, snowmobilers should be vigilant and ready to stop.

Return to the text(2) The fine for modifying an exhaust system in such a way as to cause it to be more polluting remains $100 to $200.

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