For your own safety and that of others, you must obey the law and travel on trails that are marked and maintained by snowmobiling federations. Faced with the growing number of serious accidents and fatalities, in 1996 the Ministère des Transports had the Act respecting off-highway vehicles passed. This act tightened the rules governing the use of OHVs, including snowmobiles. It was amended in 2006. Below are its main provisions.
What the law says about safety
- Wearing a safety helmet is mandatory, regardless of where you operate a snowmobile.
- The minimum age for operating a snowmobile is 16. A certificate, issued by the Québec Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (FCMQ), is mandatory for operators aged 16 or 17. To cross a public highway, you must have a driver's permit, regardless of the category. For instance, a permit to operate a moped is sufficient.
- Unless otherwise indicated, the speed limit for snowmobiles is 70 km/h (43 mph). Within 30 m (100 ft.) of a dwelling, the speed limit is reduced to 30 km/h (19 mph).
- Your snowmobile must be fitted with the mandatory safety equipment, and it is illegal to remove or modify this equipment.
- Except as provided in the Act respecting off-highway vehicles, it is illegal to operate a snowmobile on public roads. Snowmobiles can cross or drive on public roads only at authorized locations that are identified by the appropriate traffic signs. Only the manager of the road network (the Ministère des Transports or the municipality) can authorize the use of a public road. To use a public road, under the conditions set out in the Act, a snowmobile operator must hold a valid driver’s licence.
- In general, it is illegal to ride within 30 m (100 ft.) of a dwelling, a health establishment, or an area that is reserved for cultural, educational, or sports activities. Snowmobiles must slow down when approaching one of these locations. And be careful not to make too much noise, especially at night.
- Every owner of a snowmobile must hold a minimum of $500,000 of 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.
The FCMQ’s clubs are required to develop, maintain, and mark their trails in order to ensure utmost safety. These trails form an extensive and safe network.
- Before operating a snowmobile on a body of water, make sure it is sufficiently frozen.
- Be prepared and carry a basic survival kit. There is no guarantee that a cell phone will be reliable outside of urban areas or far from major road corridors, so 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 are volunteers who patrol the trails in order to increase awareness of the importance of obeying the law. Their work requires know-how and dedication, and they deserve your respect and your complete cooperation.
- 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, and they allow you to convey essential information to other snowmobilers who are following or approaching you.