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ATV Laws: States and Minors

The tricky thing about ATV laws are that they vary from state to state. What’s in one rulebook doesn’t necessarily translate to another. However, there are a few good rules of thumb:

  • Wear a helmet
  • Take safety classes
  • Carry license and registration

Know where you are allowed to ride. Some states don’t allow ATVs on the road for any reason. Others don’t require helmets. Some places don’t allow for ATV riding on public property due to the aggressive nature of most ATV tires. Some areas have noise restrictions.

Here are a couple resources to help decipher what your state requires:

What Constitutes a Minor?

Laws for children and ATV riding also range widely. What age falls under the “minor” title? Most areas say anyone under 16, but there are always exceptions. Often, minors must have taken mandatory training courses, some require supervision from an adult, and a helmet is non-negotiable (even if the law doesn’t state as such).

Choose a size-appropriate machine.

An individual has to be big enough to reach and operate the controls of the ATV, and at the same time have enough strength to yield the vehicle for off-road riding. If you have chosen a model, first get your kid to sit on the vehicle, to see how he or she measures up. Check to see if your kid's arms are long enough to reach the handlebars comfortably, and are able to turn the bars fully to the left and right.

Strength, stamina, and coordination required

It takes stamina and strength to work the throttle and squeeze the brake lever. Can your child reach the foot controls comfortably? Can they stand while keeping a tight grip on the handlebars, 3 inches off the seat? They will need to do this at times while riding. ATV operation requires good agility, balance, and hand-eye coordination.

Find an Instructor

Start by providing your kids with hands-on training from a qualified instructor. The first class can be off-road on a relatively flat space, with a track that winds its way through some small bushes or grass. However, before your kids start their training make sure they are properly dressed and are wearing DOT-approved off-road helmets. Other safety gear includes sturdy boots, goggles, a thick jacket, long pants, and gloves.

Utilize credible web resources like ATV Safety and Stay the Trail or take safety classes and ATV training courses.

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