Michigan ATV Laws: What You Need to Know

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Riding an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) is a popular activity for those who like to travel off the beaten path. In Michigan, both adults and certain children are allowed to operate ATVs and off-road vehicles (ORVs). But before heading out, it’s important to know the state’s ATV laws and how to stay safe while riding.

Age Limits Under Michigan ATV Laws

ATVs are not considered motor vehicles in Michigan. Children as young as 10 can ride, subject to a variety of restrictions:

  • 3-wheel ATVs: No one under age 16 can operate a 3-wheel ATV.
  • 4-wheel ATVs: No child under age 10 can operate a four-wheel ATV unless they are riding on private land and performing farm duties. Kids between 10 and 11 can drive as long as the operator is on property owned by their parent or guardian, is under “direct visual supervision” by an adult, and has completed an ORV Rider Safety Course through the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Minors between 12 and 15 must be under the visual supervision of an adult and have a valid ORV safety certificate.
  • Other ORVs: Children under 16 can operate other ORVs, such as trail bikes, with adult supervision and a valid safety certificate.

Under the law, direct visual supervision means “having direct observation with the unaided or normally corrected eye and being close enough to come to the immediate aid of a youthful ORV operator.”

Required Equipment

Michigan law requires all ATV and ORV riders to wear a U.S. Department of Transportation approved helmet. If the helmet does not have a face shield, then high-quality goggles are required to prevent debris from getting into the operator’s eyes. Sunglasses do not count as acceptable eyewear.

In addition, it’s advisable to wear clothes that are comfortable, but not too loose to avoid getting caught on branches or parts of the ATV. Closed-toe boots and gloves can protect the hands and feet from injury in case there is a collision or rollover.

ATVs and ORVs must also be equipped with working headlights, taillights, and brake lights. Lights must be on during the 30 minutes prior to sunrise and sunset.
Learn more by checking out the DNR’s Handbook of Off-Road Vehicle Laws and Safety Basics.

Don’t Drink and Ride

Many times, ATVs are used in recreational settings or at parties where alcohol may be served. It’s important to remember that ATVs are similar to motorcycles in that they offer little protection to operators and passengers if a collision occurs. Driving with a blood alcohol concentration of over 0.08 — the legal limit in Michigan — increases the risk of a crash “exponentially,” according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

ATV Accident Statistics

Although ATVs and ORVs are meant for fun, keep in mind that they’re not toys. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that there were 15,744 ATV accident deaths between 1982 and 2018. Roughly 81,800 people were treated in emergency rooms for ATV-related injuries in 2018, the most recent year for which data is available. Of that number, 26 percent were children under age 16.

In Michigan, ATV and ORV accidents must be reported to the Police or Sheriff’s Office in the county where the collision occurred if it resulted in an injury, death, or estimated property damage of $100 or more.

Hurt? Get an ATV Accident Lawyer By Your Side

Christensen Law is a personal injury law firm in Southfield, Michigan. If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in an ATV or ORV accident, you could be entitled to compensation. Call or contact Christensen Law for a free consultation.