Ask the Editors: Street Legal ATV

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Dear ATVC:

I’ve noticed road equipment (mirrors, signals and so on) on some stock ATV pics. Do they make on/ off-road ATVs if so would an operator need a motorcycle license to drive one on the road?

OEMs typically don’t offer ATVs to the United States wearing street-legal trim because of the simple fact that laws concerning such things vary from state to state (and sometimes even county to county). While it’s true there are areas on the globe (like Germany) where stock ATVs are indeed manufactured, sold and equipped for dual sport use right off the dealership floor, the US has been far slower to adopt such strategies.

Some states (like South Dakota, Arizona, Utah and Montana) are far more relaxed with such concepts than tightly regulated states like New York or California. Of course even in those areas where taking an ATV (or UTV) on the street legally is possible, the requirements to make it happen vary greatly. Some require only a plate and registration, others demanding automotive insurance, inspection, motorcycle license and so on. The only way to be certain is to check with your local DMV on the situation.

Additionally we have known ATV operators who were granted limited road use by running the red triangular “Farm Implement” designation. Again, the legality of such things can vary from one town to the next so checking with authorities is your best bet.

Were we to venture a guess as to why ATVs have never received the same type of road legal love as say dual sport motorcycles, the word “liability” comes to mind. ATVs are often targeted by the media and politicians alike thanks to a reputation for causing injury. To many lawmakers the term “ATV” is a dirty word when it comes to safety, even concerning their native off-road setting. It’s highly unlikely adding the regulations for emissions, noise output, MPG ratings and crash safety to the formula will be appearing on the Federal Government’s short list of priorities any time soon.

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