Owning a street legal ATV is possible in many states, however, riding your ATV on the road is not legal everywhere. Familiarize yourself with your local and State bylaws. You will need several ATV accessories to be in full compliance with motor-vehicle laws, described below.
I posted an image of a street legal ATV called Hayabuquad in Dec of 2007 that was essentially a Hayabusa Motorcycle with an ATV conversion kit installed. Since then I’ve heard the question “where can I buy a street legal ATV” or “Is there such thing as a street legal quad” a lot of times, I hope this guide helps you find out if safe ATV riding on the roads in your area is possible.
Street legal ATVs can be found on the roads across Europe, Canada and the United States, but not everywhere and not all the time. Where it is legal to ride an ATV on the road the rules and regulations governing how you ride, and when you can ride, are significant. This is for your safety and that of the people you share the road with. You will need to install a few ATV accessories, including turn signals, a brake light, mirrors, lights and a horn to make your ATV street legal. You’ll likely need a driver’s license and insurance as well, depending on which State you live in.
Some things to know about street legal ATVs
Laws vary from state to state and city to city, your local DMV and police department can give you definitive information on where you can ride and where restrictions apply. Your first stop should be your local department of motor vehicles or police department.
Street legal ATV riding is limited and road access where you can ride is often restricted. Being street legal doesn’t mean ride anywhere at any time, in fact most roads with a speed limit above 45 MPH will be designated as forbidden to ATV and UTV use.
A street legal ATV needs to be road worthy including turn signals, headlights, brake lights and a rear view mirror. A minimum age and ride height may also be required.
Proper licensing, registration, insurance and paperwork is not always optional for ATV’s and obtaining an ATV insurance quote can be a frustrating experience, but may also be necessary.
Special rules: In some states it is only legal to ride an ATV on the road to cross it. In such places you may hear it is legal to ride an ATV on the road, but this only means when crossing the road. You need to know your local rules and regulations.
Start by consulting with your local DMV
Every State in the US, and province in Canada, has it’s own Department of Motor Vehicles(DMV) which governs the rules of the road for ATVs. Start by researching your local ATV Road laws and riding regulations from your local DMV website.
The URL for your local DMV website will usually have your states abbreviation in it and will finish with either .gov or .us. An example, California’s DMV website is http://dmv.ca.gov/ and NY States DMV website is http://www.nydmv.state.ny.us/. Notice the state abbreviation government TLD (top level domain, ie:.com, .net etc) are included and that they are Government websites, not .com’s. Major search engines such as Google and Yahoo also do an excellent job of returning the official government sites first in search results.
Steps to take for a safe street legal ATV
Where street legal ATV riding is permitted it is also required that your ATV meets all of the rules and regulations associated with making your ATV road worthy. This means that you will need to install several ATV accessories to make your ATV road legal. The following are typically required
Turn Signals – Your ATV will need turn signals to signal your intent to change lanes and make turns. You can buy a turn signal kit online that can be installed in an afternoon. Make sure the kit you choose comes with a switch that you can easily reach when turning.
ATV Rearview Mirrors – All road-legal vehicles require a rearview or side mirrors so that the driver can see behind them. A helmet-mounted mirror is not enough, the mirrors need to be attached to your quad to make the quad street-legal. Fortunately, rearview mirrors are another inexpensive ATV accessory available online, I found several rearview mirrors for under $30.
A horn – You will need to install a horn on your quad to be able to signal other drivers. Be it to announce your presence or to warn of a hazard, or just to remind the driver in front of a green light, a horn is considered standard required equipment by law. I found several easy-to-install ATV horns for under $20 online.
Brake light – A brake light, also referred to as a tail light, is mandatory for road driving. There is no exception for ATVs, you will need to install a proper brake light to be in compliance with traffic laws.
Headlights and reflectors – The majority of ATV Brands are manufactured with a headlight for safety reasons so this shouldn’t be a problem. If your ATV does not have a working headlight, however, you will need to install one to make your ATV street legal. The same goes for reflectors, they are usually included on all stock ATVs and are required for road driving.
Additional accessories that may be required
Depending on where you live your local laws may require additional accessories to be installed on your ATV to make it road worthy. I consider these a good idea even if they are not absolutely required, consider installing them anyway for safety reasons.
License Plate Holder w/ Light – You will need a license plate and it is almost universally required that your quad has a light to illuminate it at night. The license plate must also be mounted using an approved holder to prevent it from coming loose while driving.
A windshield – At a high enough rate of speed even a bug can cause pain. A windshield is essential to protect your from road debris, rain and… bugs!
A Quieter Muffler – Most states require that the muffler of your ATV be quiet enough not to be a nuisance and this is also true when riding on the streets.
DOT Approved ATV tires – DOT stands for Department of Transportation and tires must conform to the laws of the road to be legal. Paddle tires, for example, or completely bald tires that have no tread left will not pass a safety inspection.
Registration, Insurance and Inspection – You will need to submit your ATV for inspection before being given permission to ride it on the road with other vehicles. A proper ATV registration with proof is mandatory before you can get the vehicle inspection done. Likewise you will need the proper paperwork to be able to acquire ATV insurance, which is also required to be street legal in most states.
A valid driver’s license – This one might be easy to overlook but ATV riders are not exempt from licensing requirements before being legally allowed to drive on the street. There is no special class specifically for ATVs in most states, however, a valid driver’s license is required by the department of motor vehicles and the police so make sure you have your license with you at all times.
Street Legal ATV Kit – SAVE MONEY – You can save a little money by purchasing all of the required ATV accessories together in one street legal conversion kit. The kit should have all of the components you will need for safe riding on the streets. Many of these accessories are universal and will fit on any ATV however a few basic hand-tools is enough for most installations. Take your time and follow the instructions, your ATV will be safer and street legal in no time.
State Specific Street Legal ATV Guidelines
I’ve taken the time, for my own knowledge, to check with the DMV in all 50 States and the following are the applicable laws from each State. This list should not be taken as absolute, always double check the requirements with your local DMV. Laws change from time to time so a good refresher of the laws at least once per year is a good idea. ATVSafety.org also publishes an excellent ATV State Rules guideline worth bookmarking.
IMPORTANT – Most States allow their counties to create their own regulations concerning off-highway vehicle activities, including road use. For that reason you need to contact the DMV of the county you plan to drive in. Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Texas, Minnesota, Wyoming, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, North and South Dakota, Washington, Michigan, Kentucky, Nebraska, Ohio, Vermont, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Tennessee and Colorado all have laws that allow the street-legalization of ATVs and most counties comply.
Alabama: Access to roads, and the beaches on the Gulf of Mexico, is prohibited
Alaska: Roads must specifically say they are open to ATVs
Arizona: A horn that can be heard 250 feet away is required
Arkansas: ATVs are not legal on roads, except for farm equipment moving between fields
California: A working spark arrestor is mandatory, road accesses is extremely limited
Colorado: No ATV may operate on public streets that are not designated for them.
Connecticut: ATV riding on public land is prohibited, except for crossing
Delaware: ATVs are illegal on any public highway, street or sidewalk
Florida: Mostly banned, except for limited federal agency approved areas
Georgia: Legal, must comply with Uniform Rules of the Road legislation
Hawaii: Legal on two-lane streets under 35 MPH with valid 286-102 license
Idaho: Minimum age is 18, not 16, and locations are limited
Illinois: An off-highway vehicle usage stamp must be displayed
Indiana: Largely banned but some counties have designated roads where ATVs are allowed
Iowa: Registration is mandatory and a permit is required for out of State drivers
Kansas: ATVs must not ride on roadways except to cross
Kentucky: No non-commercial riding is allowed on public roads. Crossing is prohibited on roads with speed limits above 55 MPH
Louisiana: ATVs must be designated for road use or remain on the shoulders, no highway access
Maine: Limited road access, subject to Rules of the Road laws
Oregon: Access is permitted on any road not maintained for passenger car traffic
Pennsylvania: Only legal when necessary to cross a bridge or culvert.
Rhode Island: 16 square inches of reflective material is required anywhere forward of the handlebars on each side
South Carolina: ATV must pass inspection, riding limited to daylight hours, no highway access
South Dakota: Only crossing is permitted, with limitations
Tennessee: Speed limited to 35 MPH, DOT approved tires mandatory
Texas: Amber front turn signals, red rear turn signals
Utah: Amber front turn signals, red rear turn signals
Vermont: Spark arrestor mandatory, vehicle inspection, heavy limitations on location
Virginia: ATVs are prohibited from use on any public highway
Washington: ATVs allowed only on roads with a 45 mph limit or less
West Virginia: ATVs are prohibited from any road with a center line or more than two lanes
Wisconsin: ATV use on roads is prohibited with the exception of crossing a bridge or culvert
Wyoming: Amber front turn signals, red rear turn signals
ATV use on streets is regulated in every state so get to know your local laws. The above is a general guideline of notable differences between states and is only to be used as a quick reference for informational purposes. It may not be up to date, always check with your local DMV or police department prior to riding.