Overview

Thousands of people are injured every year while riding off-highway vehicles (OHVs) in Alberta. According to the Injury Prevention Centre, many of those injuries involve head trauma to riders who weren’t wearing helmets.

As of May 15, 2017, CSA-compliant helmets must be worn by OHV users when riding on public land. Public land means Crown land, including areas that have been designated for public OHV use, public roadway and highway rights-of-way.

What is an OHV?

In Alberta, an off-highway vehicle (OHV) is defined in the Traffic Safety Act as any motorized mode of transportation built for cross-country travel on land, water, snow, ice or marsh or swamp land or on other natural terrain, and without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes, when specifically designed for such travel:

  • 4-wheel drive vehicles
  • low pressure tire vehicles
  • motorcycles and related 2-wheel vehicles
  • amphibious vehicles
  • all-terrain vehicles (ATVs)
  • utility terrain vehicles
  • miniature motor vehicles
  • snow vehicles
  • minibikes
  • any other means of motorized transportation.

This definition includes OHVs known as side-by-sides, dirt bikes, snowmobiles and snow bikes.

Excluded are motor boats, farm machinery and construction machinery.

When helmets are required

Helmets are required for anyone driving, operating, riding in or on, or being towed by, an OHV. An OHV is any motorized vehicle built for cross-country travel, including:

  • dirt bikes, motorcycles, mini-bikes and related 2-wheel vehicles
  • all-terrain vehicles (ATVs)
  • utility terrain vehicles
  • miniature motor vehicles
  • amphibious vehicles
  • snow vehicles, including snowmobiles and snow bikes

Exemptions

Helmets are not required when using an OHV:

Helmets are not required in vehicles that:

  • have manufacturer installed rollover protective structures and seat belts, which have not been modified and are being properly worn
  • meet standards for motor vehicles designed for use on a roadway and has seat belts (e.g., unmodified 4x4 trucks, SUVs and jeeps) and is compliant with the Vehicle Equipment Regulation under the Traffic Safety Act

Fines

The fine for not wearing a helmet is $155. The fine for wearing a helmet that is not CSA-compliant is $93. This is the same penalty as riding a motorcycle without a helmet.

CSA-compliant helmets

OHV safety helmets must comply with the same standards that exist for motorcycle helmets. The standards are:

  • CSA Standard CAN3-D230-M85, Protective Headgear in Motor Vehicle Applications
  • Standard No. 218; Motorcycle helmets under Part 571.218 of the Code of Federal Regulations (United States), Title 49
  • British Standards Institution Standard BS 6658: 1985, Specification for protective helmets for vehicle users
  • Snell Memorial Foundation 2000 or 2005 or 2010 Standard For Protective Headgear, for use with Motorcycles and Other Motorized Vehicles
  • United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Regulation 22-05, Uniform provisions concerning the approval of protective helmets and their visors for drivers and passengers of motorcycles and mopeds

Where to buy a helmet

You can purchase an OHV helmet at your local OHV dealer and other retailers that sell helmets for motorized vehicles. Prices for helmets vary, but can start at $100.

Where you can ride an OHV

An OHV may not be operated on any highway, road or ditch unless permission has been expressly granted by the Minister of Transportation through written documentation, such as a Ministerial Order or a permit, or a municipality has a bylaw allowing operation on the road and/or within the road right of-way.

The only provincial Ministerial Order allows four wheeled all-terrain vehicles to be used on three digit-numbered highways during daylight hours in the course of farming operations or an emergency.

You will need to contact your local municipality to determine whether they have a bylaw that allows operation on roads and/or ditches and under what conditions.

OHVs being used recreationally are not allowed in Wilderness Areas, Ecological Reserves, and Willmore Wilderness Park.

OHVs are generally permitted on vacant public land for recreational use; however specific areas can be closed to OHVs due to over use or poor/detreating ground conditions or high fire hazard for example. Check the list of public land closures.

OHV use is typically not allowed in Provincial Parks; recreational OHVs may be allowed in Wildland Provincial Parks (only on designated trails) and in Provincial Recreation Areas (only on designated trails or designated areas). OHVs may also be permitted in some specific Natural Area sites. Although motorized use may be permitted within a particular classification, it may not be permitted or suitable in all sites based on site values and objectives. For more information, see OHV use in Alberta Parks.

Other OHV rules

There are both provincial and municipal laws regarding OHV use in Alberta. For municipal bylaws, you will need to contact the municipality where you will be riding your OHV.

Anywhere in Alberta, you cannot drive an OHV when impaired or drive it dangerously. When riding on private property, you must obtain permission beforehand from the owner.

When off-roading on public land, including Crown land, you must ensure:

  • your OHV is registered and insured
  • your OHV is equipped with a licence plate, head-light, tail-light, muffler and a spark arrester
  • the driver of the OHV is at least 14 years of age unless the child is closely supervised by an adult of at least 18 years of age
  • your OHV does not go in streams, rivers, lakes or on the beds or shores of watercourses, wetlands or waterbodies unless on a designated trail or crossing or if granted specific authorization by Alberta Environment and Parks
  • you have the permission of the leaseholder on public lands leased for agriculture – to contact a leaseholder, you can call 310-3773 for assistance or use the Leased Land Contact Information - Mapping Tool
  • you obey all posted signs and notices in Public Land Use Zones, Public Land Recreation Areas, Wildland Provincial Parks, Provincial Parks, and on Public Land Recreational Trails:

When riding on public roads, you must ensure:

  • you have a driver’s licence (Class 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 7)
  • follow all the rules of the road like other vehicles
  • you are driving on a road that OHVs have been given special permission to ride on through written documentation from Alberta Transportation or a municipal bylaw and are following any conditions of that permission

When crossing a road, you must ensure:

  • you stop the OHV before crossing
  • all passengers are off of the OHV and any vehicle or thing attached to it before crossing
  • you yield the right of way to all other vehicles and persons on the road
  • you drive across in the most direct, shortest, and safest route of travel available

OHV injuries in Alberta

On average, approximately 19 people are killed while operating OHVs in Alberta every year:

  • between 2002 and 2013, there were 185 people killed while riding all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) in Alberta
  • 74 of those people died from head injuries (40 percent)
  • nearly 80% of those fatalities involved people not wearing helmets
  • each year in Alberta, there are nearly 6,000 OHV-related emergency room visits
  • in 2015, more than 1,000 children under the age of 16 were injured while riding OHVs

Contact

To connect with Vehicle Safety:

Hours: 8:15 am to 12:00 pm and 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Phone: 780-427-8901
Fax: 780-988-7628
Toll free: 310-0000 before the phone number (in Alberta)
Email: vehicle.safety@gov.ab.ca

Address:
Main Floor, Twin Atria Building
4999 98 Avenue NW
Edmonton, Alberta  T6B 2X3