Print Page

Mystery for ATV riders: Are they street legal?

Sometimes and ATV rider has to drive over city streets to get to a designated trail. The question is, which streets are legal?

Sun Advocate publisher

For many who own ATVs, there is a mystery. One about roads.

Most who own them know that roads on BLM land that are marked for ATVs can be used. The same is true of Forest Service land.

But in the last few years people have become confused about urban roads. More and more people seem to be riding around on city streets. Is that legal or is it not?

Years ago riding on any public, paved road, was taboo on pure dirt bikes and ATVs. But on Oct. 1, 2008 a new statute that was passed by the Utah State Legislature in a session earlier in the year changed that somewhat. It allowed the vehicles on roads with a maximum posted speed limit of 40 mph and with only one lane in each direction. The law had been amended earlier that year to allow street-legal ATVs on highways with a posted speed limit of more than 45 mph, provided the vehicle had a reflector and that it was driven in the far right-hand lane.

The key to that amendment was the words "street-legal." Many ATVs are not street legal.

In addition the vehicles are not allowed in a municipality with a population of more than 7,500 or more in a county of the first class. But the key to use of roads for all ATVs came in another part of the bill which said municipalities and counties may adopt an ordinance opening streets for limited ATV use.

That is the key. Local ordinances prevail and law enforcement works within those confines.

A number of Utah cities have adopted ordinances allowing street-legal ATVs on city streets.

Some places have also adopted ordinances allowing all ATVs on streets. For instance towns around the Piute ATV Trail are unique in that they have written ordinances allowing ATV travel on their streets so tourists and others can access supplies and services. These ordinances are specific however. They designate exactly which streets are open to ATV travel and there are conditions placed on that travel as well, such as the purpose of the trip. Streets open to ATVs are also often signed in the towns involved. Some of the towns also let travelers on other streets when the rider is going directly to a motel, service station, restaurant, or residence. Speed limits are important too. Most towns limit the speed to 10 mph and all drivers must wear helmets. ATVs must be equipped with mufflers to prevent sparks which might start fires and to keep the noise down. ATVs must stop at all stop and yield signs and must travel with headlights on. Drivers also most stay to the right side of the road when they are traveling down the streets.

- In some areas the streets on which ATVs can be operated are totally spelled out. In others the rules apply to point to point. For instance in some towns one can ride an ATV to the post office to pick up mail. In another they cannot.

- Many of the rules are set so riders can get to trail heads. Machine riders must use the most direct route to a trail head either from the persons residence or overnight accommodations.

- In most cases they cannot be used for a general mode of transportation within any towns or areas in Carbon County.

- They cannot be used to operate on designated state highways such as Highway 6, Highway 123 or others, except to cross at a right angle. In Helper, for instance, Main Street is a state highway so they cannot be ridden there even though the speed limit is very low.

- Maximum speed limit is 20 mph.

- Only one person can be on an ATV at any one time on the roads.

- Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult and should remain within supervision of an adult at all times while on the public streets. In East Carbon the ordinance says the adulte has to be within 50 feet.

- Operators must either have an OHV certificate (8-16 years old) or a drivers license to operate and ATV. In some cases no one under 12 (or in some cases 16) are allowed on town roads riding an ATV.

- TVs must be state registered with current stickers and registration.

While the rules vary, Wellington is a good case in study. Police Chief Lee Barry says that the rules for riding ATVs on the streets varies a little from others, but based on ordinance comparison not much.

"Operators need to be licensed and they can ride on about any street as long as they stay off the highway," he said on Wednesday. "They can cross Highway 6 but they must do it at a right angle."

He also pointed out that anyone under 18 has to be supervised by an adult when riding "and that doesn't mean from the sofa in a persons front room."

The ordinances here were put in place to basically do a similar thing that is being done in East Carbon/Sunnyside and Price and that is to let people ride to trail heads.

"At this point we don't really have any trail heads within the city," said Barry. "We try to be reasonable about enforcement on this, but people need to use common sense."

While these above are general rules to follow, each person who intends to ride on city streets should check with their municipality or the county for the regulations in their particular area. Don't count on what is legal in one town to be legal in another.

Print Page