All-Terrain Vehicles Legislation

All-Terrain Vehicles or ATVs are often synonymous with mud-in-your-face, wind-in-your-hair, off-road adventures. Unfortunately, many individuals climb on to an ATV without properly understanding how the machine works, where it should be operated and what to do in the case of an emergency. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC):

  • 135,000 people are injured every year in ATV accidents
  • From 2016 through 2020, there were 526,900 emergency department-treated injuries associated with OHVs (ATVs, ROVs, and/or UTVs) in the United States.
  • Over 700 people are killed in ATV accidents annually
  • Approximately 1/3 of those killed in ATV accidents each year are under the age of 16

View sample all-terrain vehicle legislation >

Riding on the edge

Causes of ATV accidents range from drunk driving, to speeding recklessly, to hill-climbing. Adding multiple riders to vehicles designed for a single passenger is also a major contributor to accidents in which the vehicle becomes unbalanced, rolls over, and ejects riders.  

Setting limits with All-Terrain Vehicle legislation

In general, most state and local governments have some regulations on the books to control the use of All-Terrain Vehicles – especially in urban landscapes. It’s also true that areas that are away from the “central hub” of cities may permit the use of ATVs in cases where roads are rough or are non-existent. Even in the states that allow these vehicles, where they can operate is strictly controlled.

Alaska, for example, severely limits the use of these vehicles throughout the entire state. Although it is not known to be a highly metropolitan area, riding ATVs is only allowed in areas that do not have access to major highways, where roads are not maintained properly, or when severe weather conditions make it difficult or impossible for cars or trucks to navigate safely. 

Taking it to the streets

A number of states allow the use of ATVs if they are considered “street legal” through some modifications. These include the addition of turn signals, headlights, brake lights and a rear-view mirror.  Proper licensing, registration, insurance and paperwork is not always optional for ATVs and obtaining an ATV insurance quote may also be necessary. Some localities also mandate safety training and devices for riders and may even have minimum age and height among other requirements.

Following the road to safety and responsibility

For frequent ATV operators or occasional weekend riders, following the law and observing safety procedures is extremely important for the safety of the rider, the environment and those around them.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends these key safety tips to follow:

  • Get hands-on training from a qualified instructor, e.g., in an ATV Safety Institute (ASI) course.
  • Always wear a helmet and other protective gear, such as eye protection, boots, gloves, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.
  • Never ride with more passengers than there are seats.  Most ATVs are designed for one rider.
  • Riders younger than 16 should only drive age-appropriate youth model ATVs, and never adult ATVs.
  • Off-road vehicles are designed to be driven only on off-road terrain, not paved surfaces.
  • Never ride on public roads except to cross where permitted by law.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol before or while driving an ATV, because alcohol can impair judgment and response time.

Useful examples of All-Terrain Vehicle legislation from the eCode360® Library

If your community is interested in legislating or updating ordinances to regulate ATVs, here are some useful examples that can be found in our eCode360 Library:

Updating your municipal code is vitally important

Submit your code updates as soon as possible and ensure constituents and local government officials are always referencing and working with the most up-to-date resources. Make it part of your Board meeting close-out process to send your adopted legislative changes to General Code when everything from that meeting is already right at hand.

General Code clients can easily send legislation to [email protected] (If you’re located in Texas, please submit your legislation to [email protected]) For tips that will allow us to process your code updates most efficiently, click here.

Our Client Care team is available to explain the options and benefits of scheduled code updates or any other code-related questions you might have.


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