Generally, it’s easy to determine if a vehicle is a motor vehicle when you are dealing with cars, trucks, motorcycles and so on. However, things get a little bit complicated when snowmobiles, dirt bikes and non-motorized vehicles like bicycles are involved.
A snowmobile is not considered a motor vehicle according to the definition of ‘motor vehicle’ in many state statues. However, under the Motorized Snow Vehicles Act, snowmobiles are required to be insured under a liability policy, and this makes them motor vehicles in many legal scenarios.
Knowing whether your snowmobile is considered a motor vehicle can come in handy when you are involved in a snowmobiling accident. Automobile insurance laws apply to only motor vehicles. And an injured party in a snowmobiling accident may not be able to make a claim in situations where his/her snowmobile is not considered a motor vehicle.
We’ll be discussing the laws that govern the use and operation of snowmobiles below. And they will shed light on the simple but yet seemingly complicated question, “Is a snowmobile a motor vehicle?”
Is A Snowmobile Considered A Motor Vehicle By Law?
What constitutes a motor vehicle is stipulated in the Highway Traffic Act. Under this Act, the definition of a motor vehicle includes automobiles, motorcycles, as well as motor-assisted bicycles. The definition also includes any driven vehicle that doesn’t use muscular power to function. There is no ambiguity about what constitutes a motor vehicle under this Act.
The Highway Traffic Act also stipulated vehicles that aren’t considered motor vehicles. Such vehicles include:
- Power-assisted bicycles
- A traction engine
- Farm tractors
- Motorized snow vehicles (snowmobiles)
- Motor vehicles running only upon rails a self-propelled implement of husbandry or a road-building machine.
The Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act, which ensures coverage for injured parties in an automobile accident, stipulates that all ‘motor vehicles’ operated on a highway must be insured under the Insurance Act. Since the Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act deals with ‘motor vehicles’, the Act has to define what constitutes a motor vehicle.
And the Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act has the same definition as the Highway Traffic Act.
Therefore, a snowmobile is not a motor vehicle under the Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act and the Highway Traffic Act. This is where another legislation comes in and this is the legislation that specifically governs the use and operation of snowmobiles, And that is the Motorized Snow Vehicles Act.
There is a section of this law (section 12) that deals with the insurance of snowmobiles. And it states that:
“No person shall drive a motorized snow vehicle unless the vehicle is insured under a motor vehicle liability policy in accordance with the Insurance Act and the owner of a motorized snow vehicle shall not permit any person to drive the vehicle unless the vehicle is so insured.”
In summary, your snowmobile is a motor vehicle only and only when you register it under the specifications of the Insurance Act ‘Motor Vehicle’ Liability policy.
Instead, the law defines ATVs and snowmobiles as Off-Highway Vehicles. OHVs are motor vehicles designed for off-highway travel such as quads, trail bikes, snowmobiles, amphibious vehicles and off-road go-carts.
Here’s a video that talks about a certain case that revolved around when snowmobiles are considered motor vehicles or not.
What Defines A Motorized Vehicle?
Defining what can be considered a motor vehicle used to be a bit tricky and complicating, even. However, the definition has been modified several times to make term clear and without any ambiguity.
The reason why there is a need to have a clear definition of a ‘motor vehicle’ is to avoid confusion during automobile accidents. This will help determine if you can make a tort claim or not.
If the vehicle of the party at fault in an accident is determined to be a motor vehicle, then his/her automobile insurer may have to compensate the injured party. And if the vehicle is found not to be considered a motor vehicle by law, the insurer may avoid paying any compensation.
The motor vehicle is essentially a subset of the broader term, ‘vehicles’. Vehicle constitutes any structure on wheels that can be used to carry people or goods. It encompasses:
- A motor vehicle
- Traction engine
- Road-building machine
- Farm tractor
- And any vehicle drawn, propelled, or driven by any kind of power, including muscular power
What’s even more interesting is the law’s definition of vehicles, which says that snowmobiles are not considered to be vehicles. And they are also not considered motor vehicles.
Every state is different though, some states clearly define that snowmobiles are motor vehicles and some don’t. There is no federal government definition of what a snowmobile is considered to be.
Is A Snowmobile Considered A Motor Vehicle In Ontario?
Whether a snowmobile is considered a motor vehicle should be of interest to you if you’ll be snowmobiling in Ontario. Many Ontarians get injured when snowmobiling every winter.
The use and operation of snowmobiles in Ontario are governed by the Motorized Snow Vehicles Act discussed above. By registering your snowmobile under the Insurance Act as directed in the Motorized Snow Vehicles Act, it can then be considered a motor vehicle in Ontario.
You must register your snowmobile under the insurance act if it is to be used outside your property. If not, you can choose not to register your snowmobile. You can then use your snowmobiles only within your property and it’ll not be considered a motor vehicle.
Statutory Accident Benefits (“SABs”) refers to benefits that people injured in motor car accidents are entitled to. It doesn’t matter whether you are at fault for the accident or not. The benefits are paid to all injured parties in a motor accident. That’s why it’s sometimes referred to as ‘no-fault’ benefits.
The benefits provide for the treatment and care of the injured persons. In fact, it even covers the income (i.e replaces) of those injured until they are able to return to work. And the benefits are paid by the injured party’s insurer. SABs have made recovery easier for a lot of people involved in motor vehicle accidents.
Registering your snowmobile under the motor vehicle insurance makes you eligible for SABs if you are involved in a snowmobiling accident. And if it can be proven that you were not at fault for the accident, you can make a tort claim.
A tort claim is different from SABs and lets you demand compensation from the party at fault for the accident. As stated earlier, you can only make a tort claim if you can prove the other party is at fault for the accident. And the benefits/compensation of a tort claim is usually more than that of SABs. And it covers medical expenses and income loss.