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driving concerns

I recently bought a place down in Nova Scotia with 20 acres of land. Do I need a drivers licence to drive my pickup to plow the road on my own land? Also, do I need to have registration and insurance? – Kevin

As long as you stay home on the range, you probably don’t technically need a licence, registration or insurance to drive a car or truck.

But without them, you might not be protected if that truck is stolen, vandalized or hits somebody.

Nova Scotia’s Motor Vehicle Act requires drivers to be licensed and vehicles to be registered and insured when driving on “a public highway, street, lane, road, alley, park, beach or place including the bridges thereon,” said Marla MacInnis, spokeswoman for Nova Scotia Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, in an e-mail.

If you’re on private property, those rules generally don’t apply – unless “the private property is designed to be and is accessible for the general public.”

So, you’d need a licence and registration in a Costco parking lot, for instance. But you wouldn’t need them on your own land as long as you’re not operating a business that’s open to the public.

So, technically, anybody could drive your farm truck – even someone who isn’t old enough to get a licence or someone who has a suspended licence – as long as they stay on your property.

When that vehicle leaves your property, even just to cross a public road, it needs to be registered and insured, and you need a licence to drive it.

Go public?

The rules are similar across Canada – you don’t need a licence, registration or insurance to drive a motor vehicle on private property.

But in practice, it could get tricky. Your driveway could be considered a public road if you don’t have a gate. If you hit somebody while plowing it, police could decide to charge you with driving without a licence, insurance and registration.

“Unless you are assured that access to the private land of a farm or a business is controlled – for example, by a barrier – and limited to vehicles authorized by the owner, it would be hazardous to drive without the correct class of license and without the registration certificate and proof of insurance of the vehicle,” said Anne Marie Dussault Turcotte, spokeswoman for the Société d’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ), a Crown corporation responsible for licensing, in an e-mail.

Provincial traffic laws generally don’t apply on private property if nobody else can access it. Ontario’s the only province where the Highway Traffic Act doesn’t apply even on private property at all, even if the public does have access to it.

But in every province, you could still face charges under the Criminal Code of Canada if you crash a vehicle and injure someone.

Rest insured?

If you’re driving without insurance on your own land, you’re on your own if there’s trouble.

“You would have no coverage for theft or fire [and no coverage for] liability if you hit something or someone,” said Steve Kee, spokesman for the Insurance Bureau of Canada, in an email.

If you have home insurance, it would cover things like riding lawnmowers, but it wouldn’t cover cars, trucks or off-road vehicles, Kee said.

Without liability insurance, you wouldn’t be covered if you’re sued for damages or injuries after a crash.

“Any vehicle without liability coverage is a liability,” Kee said.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article mistakenly said that the rules around needing a license to drive on public roads in Nova Scotia generally don’t apply as long as the private property is designed to be and is accessible for the general public. It is in fact the opposite. The Globe regrets the error.

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