Michigan ATV Laws: What You Need to Know

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If you are breaking out your four-wheeler this summer and hitting the trails, you will want to be sure you know about the Michigan ATV laws. Taking a few minutes to review off-road safety could save your money, your record, and even your life.

All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) don’t count as motor vehicles for most of the laws in Michigan. That can make it tough to know what the law is. Here’s a rundown of how Michigan treats its Off-Road Vehicles (ORVs).

Age Limits Under Michigan ATV Laws

Not everyone can ride an ATV in Michigan. Unless they are helping with the family farm, kids can’t ride 4-wheel ATVs, even if they are child sized. But they can still ride 2-wheel ORVs like dirt bikes under parental supervision with the proper certification.

Children ages of 10 to 16 are only allowed to ride ATVs if they have completed an ORV Rider Safety Education Course, and are under visual supervision of an adult. Where they can ride depends on their age. At age 10 and 11, kids can only ride on land belonging to their parents. Once they turn 12, children can ride on public land and on the shoulders of some roadways.

Safety Gear for ATVs

Just like with motorcycles, safety is key when it comes to riding ATVs. Be sure to wear a crash-tested helmet and goggles to protect against dust. Unlike the state’s motorcycle law, Michigan ATV laws require all riders, regardless of age or ability, to wear protective gear while riding.

Riding without a helmet is risky, as Denise Pelletier found out the hard way. 14 years ago she was thrown from an ATV in Alberta, Canada, and suffered a life-changing head injury. Now she advocates for stronger safety laws:

“They’re out camping, they’re out drinking, they’re out having fun and, you know, nobody gets on an ATV thinking, ‘Today’s the day I’m gonna get a brain injury. . . And it’s in seconds. I mean, that’s how quick mine was, your life is changed.”

Drinking and Riding ATVs

Because most Michigan residents use ATVs for recreation, drinking and riding is a problem. If you are intoxicated it is easier to lose control of your off-road vehicle and seriously injury yourself or your passengers. Even if you don’t crash, operating an ORV on a roadway with a blood alcohol content of at least 0.08% counts as Operating While Intoxicated. Don’t take that risk. If you have been drinking, hand over your ATV keys and stick close to the camp instead.

ATV accidents can cause just as much damage as motorcycle accidents. Take them seriously and follow the Michigan ATV laws about child riders, safety gear, and drinking and riding. It could save someone’s life.

David Christensen is an auto accident attorney at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. He represents the victims of motor vehicle accidents in claims against their insurance companies. If you or someone you know has been seriously injured in an ATV or motorcycle accident, contact Christensen Law for a free consultation.