Howie, Sacks & Henry LLP – Personal Injury Law – Adam Wagman
Adam Wagman

Famed stuntman Evel Knievel once said that anybody can jump a motorcycle – the trouble begins when you try to land it. While Knievel’s death-defying landings were nothing short of magical, there is no magic when it comes to motorcycle safety – only the good sense to exercise precautions. In this blog, we will review the law, outline safety requirements and offer recommendations, so that you can ensure your own safe landing.

Motorcyclist in the rearview Mirror

The Law and Motorcycling

Motorcycling is governed by the Highway Traffic Act.[1] Section 1(1) of the Highway Traffic Act defines a motorcycle as a self-propelled vehicle having a seat or saddle for the use of the driver and designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground.

In order to drive a motorcycle on a public road in Ontario, you must register the motorcycle with the Ministry of Transportation and have a valid licence plate attached to it. You are also required to have liability insurance and carry your M licence, vehicle registration, and insurance card with you when operating a motorcycle.

Safety Requirements & Recommendations

Driving a motorcycle requires the utmost concentration and vigilance for potential hazards. As such, you must be in good physical and mental state when driving. Do not operate a motorcycle when you are ill, fatigued, injured, emotionally distraught, or impaired in any fashion whatsoever. As the Ministry of Transportation states, “[y]ou need to be calm, alert and focused every time you drive.”

Here are some additional safety requirements and recommendations for driving a motorcycle:

  • Do not consume alcohol, narcotics, or prescription medication that may make you dizzy or drowsy. Such substances impair your ability to balance, steer, control speed, and judge distances.
  • Always inspect your motorcycle before driving it and pay particular attention to:
    • Proper tire pressure;
    • Condition of the tire tread – look for worn or uneven tread (bulges and cracking) and damage to the tread, such as cuts or punctures;
    • Controls – ensure that all pedals, levers, and switches are in good working order;
    • Mirrors – clean and adjust;
    • Brakes – test the front and rear brakes independently;
    • Cables – look for broken strands, kinks, or binding;
    • Lights – check the headlight and tail light;
    • Fuel and oil levels; and
    • Stands – check the functioning of the springs.
  • Wear an approved motorcycle helmet – Section 104 of the Highway Traffic Act states that you are not permitted to ride a motorcycle unless you wear a helmet that complies with the regulations and the chin strap of the helmet is securely fastened under your chin;
  • Wear protective clothing and equipment, such as:
    • Bright colours and reflective items;
    • A jacket and pants that fit well, but allow you to move freely;
    • Back protectors, kidney belts, and body armour inserts;
    • A rain suit in inclement weather;
    • Sturdy footwear that covers your ankles and has a hard, durable sole; and
    • Gloves that cover your wrists.
  • Never use a cell phone or other hand-held devices while driving a motorcycle – Section 78.1 of the Highway Traffic Act prohibits drivers from texting, emailing, typing, dialing, and calling without hands-free mode on a hand-held communication or entertainment device while driving. If you violate this law, you may be subject to a fine between $400.00 and $1,000.00 and also have three demerit points applied to your driving record. For more information related distracted driving, see our blog “Driven From Distraction.

Motorcycle riders are some of the best drivers on the road. Unfortunately, they are often at the mercy of the distracted or poor drivers of cars. And those at our firm have seen what usually happens when a car and a motorcycle collide – the driver of the car has to take their car to the shop, while the motorcycle rider ends up in an ambulance. If you pay attention to everything around you, if you practice defensive driving strategies, and if you follow the law and the above requirements and recommendations, like Evel Knievel, you will succeed in becoming a motorcycle safety legend and be in the best possible position to bring any motorcycle journey in for a successful landing.

You may also be interested in reading “Tripping Over Parked Motorcycle Constitutes an Accident” an article about the case of Economical Mutual Co. v. Coughly from the Ontario Court of Appeal, which confirmed that, under certain circumstances, falling over a parked motorcycle can entitle an injured person to benefits under the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS).

For more information or if you have questions, please contact Adam Wagman at adamwagman@hshlawyers.com or 416-361-0988.


[1] Highway Traffic Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, as amended

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