Column by Staff-Sgt. John Berry
Ask the RCMP
Question: Can I ride my snowmobile on the road during a storm?
– Lee, Bible Hill
Answer: In Nova Scotia, snowmobiles are classified as off highway vehicles, the same as an ATV, dirt bike or dune buggy.
Use of these motor vehicles are controlled by the off-highway vehicle act. As the name of this act suggests, these vehicles were designed specifically to be used ‘off’ public highways.
Public highways, paved or not, were created for passenger vehicles such as cars or trucks. The design of the brakes, suspension, lighting and safety restraint systems on an off-highway vehicle does not meet the required standards such as those found in passenger vehicles.
Section 12 of the off-highway vehicle act states where a person may operate an off-highway vehicle, some places depending on the time of day and weather conditions.
A qualified rider may operate an off-highway vehicle on a private road or property if they have permission of the land owner.
A qualified rider may operate an off-highway vehicle in the ditch of a highway during daylight hours, with or against the flow of vehicular traffic. From sunset to sunrise the off highway vehicle may only be driven in the same direction as the normal flow of the vehicular traffic on that side the highway.
A qualified rider may drive an off-highway vehicle across a highway if they stop at the side of the road and yield to highway traffic. The person must drive directly across the road and only if they have an unobstructed view for 500 feet in each direction and there are no passengers on the off highway vehicle.
An off-highway vehicle may be operated upon a highway when it is impassable with snow but only if the highway is not normally maintained by snow clearance equipment and not within the boundaries of a city, town or village. In all cases, a person must possess a valid driver's license to drive on or cross a highway.
Every year the RCMP respond to numerous crashes involving off-highway vehicles. Many of these include collisions with passenger vehicles such as cars and trucks, resulting in critical injuries or death.
While the idea of riding a snowmobile down a snow covered highway may seem appealing, meeting another vehicle including a snowplow could spell disaster for all involved.
Staff-Sgt. John Berry is the district commander for the Colchester RCMP. ‘Ask the RCMP' appears monthly in the Truro Daily News. If you have a question related to policing in your community, you can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or mail you question to Ask the RCMP, PO Box 1585, Bible Hill, N.S., B2N 5V3.