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“ATV” is an abbreviation for an all-terrain vehicle, also known as a “three wheeler”, “four wheeler”, “quad” or “quad bike”. ATV is a vehicle that travels on low pressure tires, with a seat that is straddled by the operator, along with handlebars for steering control. As the name implies, it is designed to handle a wider variety of terrain than most other vehicles. In Canada, it is not street legal vehicle. ATVs are intended for use by a single operator, although some companies have developed ATVs intended for use by the operator and one passenger.

Legal Definition of an “All-Terrain Vehicle”

“ATVs are generally defined as three-or four-wheeled motorized vehicles (although newer models may have up to six wheels), with large, low-pressure tires designed for a single operator riding in off-road terrain.” There are also ATVs on the market engineered, designed and manufactured to accommodate a driver and one passenger and the Canadian Institute of Health Information’s (CIHI) definition includes both snowmobiles and other off-road vehicles.

Situational Assessment

  • In 2004, according to the Canadian Safety Council, approximately 850,000 Canadians owned an ATV.
  • ATVs are used in Canada as a means of off-road transportation for forestry, farming and recreational purposes.
  • Since being introduced in the North American market in the early 1970s, the recreational use of ATVs has grown significantly.
  • These vehicles weigh up to 500lbs and can reach speeds of up to 105km (65mph). ATVs for two riders can weight up to 800lbs.
  • Operating an ATV safely requires adult skills and judgment.
  • Use of ATVs by those under 16 years can result in serious injury and death.
  • Increased popularity of ATVs has resulted in increased ATV-related injury rates.
  • Riding an ATV is not comparable to riding a bike, motorcycle or driving a car. It requires the ability to shift your weight in a coordinated response to terrain changes.

ATV Injuries in Canada

ATVs were first introduced in the early 1970s and almost immediately realized alarming injury rates for children and adolescents due to crush injuries and failure to wear safety gear such as helmets. In fact, ATVs are equally as dangerous as motorcycles. A Canadian study stated that “associated injury patterns, severity, and costs to the healthcare system” of pediatric injuries associated to ATVs resemble those caused by Motor Vehicles.

Direct costs of ATV and snowmobile injuries in Canada are $185 million and indirect costs are $196 million for a total cost of $381 million. For transport related injuries, ATVs and snowmobiles are nationally responsible for the following:

  • 13% of hospitalizations
  • 7% of emergency room visits
  • 12% of cases of permanent partial disability
  • 11% of permanent total disability

ATV Injuries in Ontario

On average, more than 15 people each day are seen in Ontario emergency departments for injuries related to ATVs. In the 2005/06 fiscal year, there were 5,584 Emergency Department visits (47.1/100,000) and 579 (4.8/100, 000) hospitalizations for ATV related injuries.

Some ATV injuries statistics:

  • Of those hospitalized, 78% were discharged home, 10% were discharged home with support services and approximately 1% died in the ED.
  • The majority of those presenting at the ED or being hospitalized were ATV drivers.
  • The most common injuries for ED visits and hospitalizations were those to the lower limbs (knee, lower leg, ankle and foot). Lower leg fracture was the most common injury for ED visits and hospitalizations followed by fracture of the shoulder and upper arm.
  • The highest overall rates of ATV injuries were reported in Northern Ontario.
  • Males represented 80% of ED visits and 83% of hospitalizations for ATV injuries.
  • Males and females 10–24 years represented the highest number and rate of ED visits and hospitalizations for ATV injuries.
  • Males 15–19 years had the highest number of ED visits (935) and hospitalizations (87) for all age groups and for both males and females – more than three times that of females.

Where All-Terrain Vehicle (Off-Road Vehicles) Can/Cannot Travel:

  • Provincial regulations apply to provincial highways only
  • Prohibited from 400 series highways, Trans-Canada Highway, Queen Elizabeth Way
  • Generally, vehicles will be allowed access to highways 500 to 899, 7000 series highways and highways with low traffic volumes.
  • Provincial highways with a Summer Average Daily Traffic level less than 5,000. Specific provincial highways where Off-Road Vehicles can/cannot travel are defined in the regulation schedules.
  • Provisions allowing Off-Road Vehicles on roads in far Northern Ontario also apply.
  • Off-Road Vehicles can operate on shoulder; move to traveled portion of highway if shoulder is impassable/unsafe
  • Speed limit lower than posted limits:
    • 20km/h – highways where speed limit is 50km/h or less;
    • 50km/h – highways where speed limit is over 50km/h.

Not allowed on rights-of-way (e.g., medians) between opposing lanes of traffic.

  • Cannot operate in a construction zone, on a closed highway, or within a provincial park unless allowed by the park.
  • Municipalities may pass by-laws to decide if, where and when off-road vehicles can be used on local roads.

Source: Ontario Ministry of Transportation


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