Section 25

Motorcycles and off-road vehicles

Section 25
Motorcycles and off-road vehicles


Alcohol is a factor in the majority of deaths involving off-road vehicles.

25.1 Overview

Operating a motorcycle (Class 6) or an off-road vehicle, including a snowmobile, demands a higher level of physical fitness and different driving skills than driving a non-commercial passenger vehicle.

As long as off-road vehicles are not driven on provincial/territorial roads, they do not need licence plates, and their use is not subject to any regulation. However, in Quebec a valid licence for any class of vehicle is required when a person is driving off-road vehicles on provincial trails (Province of Quebec, 2022).

Nevertheless, drivers of motorcycles and off-road vehicles should be advised to wear protective helmets at all times. There are no valid medical reasons for a driver or a passenger not to wear a helmet. A person who is incapable of wearing a helmet should be encouraged to find another mode of transportation.

Alcohol is a factor in the majority of deaths involving off-road vehicles. Among those 20–49 years of age, 68% of such deaths involve alcohol (Statistics Canada, 2021). Thus, the admonition “If you drink, don’t drive” applies to drivers of off-road vehicles as much as, if not more than, drivers of on-road vehicles. See also Section 5, Alcohol.

25.2 General

Motorcycle operators should be expected to meet the medical standards for drivers of non-commercial vehicles (Class 5) in every respect. Medical disabilities that might be safely overlooked for a driver of a non-commercial vehicle may be incompatible with the safe operation of a motorcycle.

Driving a motorcycle requires the full use of all four limbs and good balance. A motorcycle driver must be able to maintain a strong grip with both hands, as this is required for the use of handlebar controls. A driver must keep both hands on the handlebars.

25.3 Specific conditions

  • Angina — Exposure to cold and cold winds can trigger an angina attack in susceptible individuals.
  • Asthma — Exposure to cold and cold winds may trigger “cold” anaphylaxis and bronchoconstriction.
  • Carotid sinus sensitivity — This condition is dangerous for drivers or passengers on motorcycles or off-road vehicles because the tight restraining straps on most protective headgear may place pressure on the carotid sinus.
  • Cervical spine — Motorcycle drivers with a history of cervical spine injuries or instability should be assessed for the ability to maintain a safe riding posture without neurologic compromise.
  • Permanent tracheostomy — Drivers with a permanent tracheostomy should have some form of protection from the effects of the air stream.


Province of Quebec. Loi sur les véhicules hors route. V-1.3, sections 16-24. Updated 2022 May 26. Available: (accessed 2022 Oct. 13).

Statistics Canada. Chart 3: The proportion of ATV driver fatalities where alcohol or drug use was reported, by age group, Canada, 2013 to 2019. In: Circumstances surrounding all-terrain vehicle (ATV) fatalities in Canada, 2013 to 2019. Ottawa (ON): Statistics Canada; 2021 June 7. Available: https:// (accessed 2022 Oct. 14).

Other resources

Brooks P, Guppy A. Driver awareness and motorcycle accidents. In: Proceedings of the International Motorcycle Safety Conference; 1990; Orlando (FL). Vol. 2, no. 10. pp. 27-56.

Hurt HH Jr, Ouellet JV, Thom DR. Motorcycle accident cause factors and identification of countermeasures. Vol. 1 technical report. Contract HS-5-01160. Washington (DC): Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (US); 1981. Available: dot/6450 (accessed 2022 Oct. 13).

Hurt HH Jr, Ouellet JV, Wagar IJ. Effectiveness of motorcycle safety helmets and protective clothing. In: Proceedings of the 25th Annual Conference of the American Association for Automotive Medicine; 1981 Oct. 1-3; San Francisco (CA).

Kraus JF, Arzemanian S, Anderson CL, Harrington S, Zador P. Motorcycle design and crash injuries in California. Bull N Y Acad Med. 1988;64(7):788-803. 

Kraus JF, Peek C, McArthur DL, Williams A. The effect of the 1992 California motorcycle helmet use law on motorcycle crash fatalities and injuries. JAMA. 1994;272(19):1506-11.

Kraus JF, Peek C, Williams A. Compliance with the 1992 California motorcycle helmet use law. Am J Public Health. 1995;85(1):96-9.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (US). Report to Congress: benefits of safety belts and motorcycle helmets . DOT HS 808 347. Washington (DC): The Administration ; 1996. Available: (accessed 2022 Oct. 13).

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (US). Further analysis of motorcycle helmet effectiveness using CODES linked data [research note]. Washington (DC): The Administration; 1998. Available: (accessed 2022 Oct. 13).

Orsay EM, Muelleman RL, Peterson TD, Jurisic DH, Kosasih JB, Levy P. Motorcycle helmets and spinal injuries: dispelling the myth. Ann Emerg Med. 1994;23(4):802-6.

Peek-Asa C, McArthur DL, Kraus JF. The prevalence of non-standard helmet use and head injuries among motorcycle riders. Accid Anal Prev. 1999;31(3):229-33.