For the next section of this series, I thought we should learn more about children and riding ATVs. As stated before, I call all off-road vehicles (OHVs, razors, etc.) ATVs, for simplicity’s sake. However, take note that ATVs proper, with straddle seats, have extra safety laws: as you’ll learn below. Bumpy, windy, blind switchbacks, and steep edges, define our backroads. Horse riders, hikers, and the multiple use of fast moving cars, trucks, RVs, and ATVs, can create havoc during the busy summer season. We should try our best to follow the laws and keep our children (and our future) safe when driving ATVs in this beautiful country. Below are the rules for children under eight years old, children eight to sixteen years old, and children sixteen to eighteen years old.
Children Under 8 years old. Children under eight years old cannot operate an ATV on any public land, trail, street, or highway in Utah. The exception is for sanctioned races or organized practices where the organization organizing the practice has the required liability insurance. Even if an adult gives the child permission, the child still cannot legally operate the ATV on any public land, trail, street, or highway in Utah.
Children 8-16 years old. A child in this age range must be under “direct supervision” of an adult, at least 18 years old. “Direct supervision” means the adult and child are within 300 feet of each other, visual contact is maintained between the adult and child, and advice and assistance from the adult to the child can be given and received. The adult supervising the child must have a valid driver’s license. If the ATVs are street legal or within an area allowing ATVs, make sure those laws and ordinances are followed as well.
Children 16-18 years old. A child may ride their ATV, unsupervised, as long as they have a driver’s license or OHV education certificate. Utah State Parks provides resources about off-highway vehicle safety education.
Helmets. All children under 18 years of age, who drive a Type I ATV, snow mobile, or motorcycle (with a straddle seat), must wear a helmet when driving on public lands. Even if a parent or adult gives permission to do otherwise, the child must wear a helmet. Failure to do so can result in a fine for the parent and begin a criminal record for the child.
What about in town? Remember to follow all local laws. If there are no local laws in effect where you live, to follow the street legal laws. The street legal laws require additional licensing and requirements for drivers such as having your ATV be inspected and licensed, light requirements, and age requirements. Cities and other areas have varying requirements and allowances within their communities.
As a last reminder, even if a parent gives permission to allow a child to violate the state or local ATV laws, the parents can be liable and the child may get to experience Juvenile court proceedings. I do not recommend either of these. If you have specific questions about your municipality or community ordinances, contact the city or municipality before allowing your child to ride their ATV. The BLM and Forest Service offices and your local sheriff’s office will also answer questions about ATV riding on public land and within the county.
As always, my column is not legal advice, instead merely insight into the law and legal profession. If you have a general question about the law or legal profession, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my office at 435.610.1431
Published in the May 3rd, 2018 Wayne & Garfield County Insider.