Whether you are a new ATV owner or an experienced off-roader, if you have the quad riding bug you probably never want to stop. I am the same, but we still need to abide by some laws and regulations to keep ourselves and others safe. Today I will be answering questions about safe-to-ride locations, starting with the most common one I hear: “Can I ride my ATV in my yard?”.
As a general rule, you can ride an ATV in your yard if it does not upset your neighbors. Riding an OHV (off-highway vehicle) on private property is completely legal, as long as you own it or you have permission from the owner. Keeping that in mind, ATVs can still become a public nuisance, which enables your neighbors to make a complaint with local law enforcement. The safest way to ride an ATV in your yard is by discussing this matter with your nearby neighbors beforehand. Setting up some ground rules is a common practice to ensure everyone is content with the situation.
This being said, there are still a few nuggets of information I have to share about ATV riding laws and recommendations. I suggest you keep reading to learn where you should never ride an ATV.
Can I ride my ATV in my Yard?
Everyone can remember that pesky neighbor that seems to live off of destroying your fun. Whether you remember them as the one that confiscated your football that went over their fence, or the one that calls the police once one song is played loudly in your house, there is no escaping them. If you have found a similar character in your neighborhood that has been threatening to call the police for your ATV riding, I’m happy to tell you there is little to worry about.
Fortunately, riding an OHV on your private property is perfectly legal. The only thing you need to worry about is respecting quiet hours in your area and not damaging their property in any way. First of all, if you still want to ride in your yard, do it during the day. Do not disturb your neighbors at night, they will be rightfully angry with you. Secondly, don’t get too close to your neighbor’s fence, because you might send all the dirt flying off from your yard to theirs. In that situation, they will have grounds to make a complaint.
As I said before, I found that the best way to co-exist is by agreeing on some terms with your neighbors. If you agree to never ride past 10 pm, they will probably be fine with you having some fun in your own yard. A word of advice from me is to clear out any obstacles you might bump into and not go overboard with the speed. ATVs are made for the open land, not an enclosed space like a yard. If you are not careful, you can easily get into a dangerous situation.
If your neighbors are complaining about the noise your ATV makes, you should consider getting an ATV silencer. I actually wrote a full guide that explains how ATV silencers work and how you can use them the best.
Where Should You Never Ride an ATV?
Generally speaking, you should never ride an ATV on public roads. Most countries do not allow OHVs (including ATVs, UTVs, dirt bikes, trail bikes, and snowmobiles) on the streets. Therefore, the safest thing to do is avoid it all together. Still, I recommend you look at the ATV laws in your country or state since there are some exceptions to this rule.
Here on American soil, each state has its own regulations about ATV use. As an example, Utah is known as one of the most permissive states for quads. If you have the necessary safety measures required by the state (tail lights, mufflers, spark arrestors), then you can enter designated streets and highways with your four-wheeler. Furthermore, you can cross any street or highway in case of emergency.
Another state that has conditional street riding regulations is Florida. Here, you are allowed to ride during the day time on unpaved public roads, as long as you keep your speed under 35 miles per hour. On the other end of the spectrum, you find states like Colorado and Arkansas where the only exception for legal street riding is for agricultural use. Hawaii has its own unique take on this law, not permitting riders to get on state shorelines or beach parks.
The bottom line is that you should check out the ATV riding requirements in your state. You might be surprised to find out that with the proper safety precautions, your state allows you to ride without hassle on designated streets and highways.
Why ATVs are Not Street Legal?
The main reason why ATVs are not street legal is that they were not designed to be ridden on streets. Their large and rugged tires are made to face tough terrains like mud, sand, and rocky trails. When used on a smooth road, four-wheelers are more likely to topple over, posing a danger to both the rider and potential bystanders.
On top of that, quads are not usually equipped with crash protection systems and a few other safety features required on the road. Even though I get frustrated with these laws sometimes too, I understand why lawmakers are not thrilled about letting ATVs roam freely on public roads.
What Happens If You Get Caught Riding an ATV on the Road?
Depending on the laws of your state, you can get multiple tickets or summons when you get caught riding an ATV on the road. If the local laws do not allow you on the public road you were pulled over on, then you will get a ticket for unlicensed operation of a motorized vehicle.
Not only that, but this usually comes in a neatly-tied package with tickets for riding an unregistered, uninsured, and even a “not equipped for road use” vehicle. However, if you read the general laws in your state and abide by the safety requirements, you will never be put in this costly position.
As an avid off-roader myself, I know how useful it would be to ride on public roads. But as a driver and sometimes pedestrian, I appreciate that these laws were put in place for everyone’s safety. After all, the best place to use your ATV is on a fun trail or during a competition. If there is one recommendation I want to leave you with, it’s this: read the ATV laws in your state. It will only take you five minutes, and you will not be doing guesswork when you need to cross a highway or buying a new ATV for farm use.