Riding Dirt Bikes on ATV Trails: Here’s What the Law Says

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Each state has its own requirements with regards to dirt bikes being allowed to ride on certain trails. Here I have compiled information on how to remain safe and within the bounds of the law on riding dirt bikes on ATV trails.

Dirt bikes are allowed on ATV trails so long as the person(s) is eighteen years or older, is wearing a helmet/protective gear, and is obeying the laws of the state they are riding in. There is no exception to exceeding speed limits, allowing children under the age of eighteen to ride unsupervised, or reckless driving.

In order to learn more about these laws and how you can safely obey them, keep reading on!

Can Dirt Bikes be on ATV Trails?

The simple answer is yes. Dirt bikes are allowed to be on ATV trails.

However, each state has its own requirements for dirt bikes being allowed to drive on their trails. Some dirt bikes have to be registered, some dirt bikes can’t be ridden without helmets (which is, of course, a no-brainer), and so forth.

Dirt bikes are considered ATV vehicles in that they are off-terrain. They are meant to be driven on trails and up through the mountains, which gives them access to trails that are meant for all vehicles that do off-roading. ATV stands for All-Terrain Vehicles, which are vehicles that can do off-roading and are even allowed, in some states, to be on public roads, with specific registration and licensure.

In other words, it is completely safe and legal to drive one’s dirt bike on ATV trails so long as you are of the appropriate age and being safe; but make sure that you look up your state’s laws and registration so as to be in accordance with the law and your own safety. There can be fines of up to $500 in some states if these laws are broken.

What are the Rules When Riding Dirt Bikes on ATV Trails?

There are many things that dirt bike riders can do that will protect them in the case of an injury or severe accident. States require that dirt bike riders who want to ride on ATV trails need to do a few things first before jumping head-long onto a trail they aren’t legally prepared for.

In most states, it is a requirement that riders wear helmets when riding on their dirt bike going on ATV trails. It is a severe safety issue and can get the state in trouble if these kinds of laws are not clearly outlined and given to the public. Make sure that your helmet is always with you, safety first is the most important thing.

Some states even require that there is no reckless driving.

What is considered reckless driving some may ask? Many states define this as exceeding a speed limit that is unsafe and uncontrollable by the rider. Exceeding anything on a bike that can’t be easily stopped or maneuvered is considered reckless. Or any type of driving that can cause injury to others at an unreasonable speed or impeding on others driving is reckless and will get one into some serious trouble.

All states require that anyone under the age of eighteen must have a parent or guardian that is over the age of eighteen supervise them. This is, of course, a safety precaution for many if not all things that can be considered dangerous for younger and inexperienced persons.

Some states, such as California, state that anyone under the age of fourteen is not allowed to ride unsupervised, which means anyone above the age of fourteen is allowed to ride without strict supervision. This can also change depending on the state and what their law says about minors riding vehicles that they are licensed on.

It truthfully depends on the state that one lives in and how the laws work and can be applied to dirt bike riders on ATV trails. There are different rules and laws that vary, so it’s good to look up the laws in your own state and even before you plan to travel somewhere new and make sure you are in accordance with the laws for your own safety.

Do Not Cause Damages to Surrounding Land

Because your dirt bike is allowed on state property for riding on ATV trails, it is important that you respect that property and leave it the exact same way you came to it, if not better than when you got there. Public trails for dirt bike riding are sanctioned by the stated and given out to the public but should be greatly respected.

In the state of Delaware and a few others as well, a person may not operate a dirt bike or ATV in such a manner that can cause excessive damages or disturbances to the surrounding land, wildlife, vegetation, or disturb/annoy other persons or property. Damages that are caused and caught by the perpetrator can be greatly fined and even have removal and ban of their dirt bike from either that trail or state in general.

States require that people are responsible for the land they choose to ride on, which helps to preserve the natural parks and wildlife surrounding the trails that are graciously given to the public. It happens that people tend to be careless in picking up after themselves or even blazing their own trails. This destroys the natural beauty and can kill off other vegetation or scare off creatures of the place you are riding.

It’s important to be responsible and preserve the land that you are riding, especially if it isn’t your own land and is sanctioned by the state, given to the public for use. Make sure you’re being responsible and caring for the trails not only for yourself but for other riders who enjoy those trails as well. If trails are not taken care, the state can take them back and create private property, which isn’t any fun for anyone.

Safety First

This may seem like a no-brainer, but being safe on your dirt bike is greatly important, no matter what age you are and what state you live in. When riding on an ATV trail, checking to make sure you are wearing the proper protective gear greatly improves your ride and your safety.

In every state, it is required that all persons riding any form of an off-roading vehicle be wearing a helmet. A helmet protects one of the most vital organs to the body, the brain. The helmet will help to prevent concussions and any sort of object going through your cranium if you were to accidentally take a fall off of your bike.

Helmets are for the protection of all riders, not just specific ones. States say that having a helmet is mandatory for riders, as it is a safety precaution and prevents lawsuits and horrible accidents coming upon the state and riders themselves.

Some states even go so far as to say that riders must be wearing more than just helmets, they need protective gear such as long-sleeve shirts, gloves, and in some cases riding boots. When one is wearing a long-sleeve or protective shirt, riders are prevented from being horribly scraped and bruised. Gloves give riders a secure grip on the handles and protect their knuckles from being smashed by branches or debris. Boots are just an added safety for rocks, shrubs, and debris kicked up from riding.

No matter where you are riding or what you are riding on, being safe is the number one concern you should have.

In order to ride on ATV trails, states ask a small favor of wearing protective gear that will prevent any serious harm coming to the rider. Wearing a helmet, riding gloves, long-sleeved shirt, or even boots when necessary, can be beneficial for all riders and will keep you and everyone else safe. Trails can be dangerous, so make sure that safety is your number one priority.

No Reckless Driving

What is considered to be reckless driving? Some states consider it to be driving underage and one a bike that isn’t meant for your age or experience. Other states say it is driving at a speed that is much too fast and cannot be easily stopped and controlled. Whatever state you live, there is a name for reckless driving, and obeying the law will help prevent one from finding themselves with a fine.

The state of Illinois says that reckless driving is when the person driving the vehicle is going at a speed that cannot be reasonably stopped within a safe distance from other vehicles or objects, not endangering other persons out riding, or is endangering the life of the rider, other riders, or wildlife. This is in place to protect riders and keep a speed limit on vehicles that can move fast but will keep everyone involved safe.

Many states define reckless driving in the same manner as Illinois, in which case it should not endanger anyone else, riding or not, or the rider themselves, and the vehicle shouldn’t be going a speed exceeding something that can be reasonably stopped. Most states use this as a way of preventing accidents and lawsuits that come from people who are not watching out and being careful about their speed or manner of driving.

Some other states also include reckless driving as driving while intoxicated, which is extremely dangerous, no matter what type of vehicle you are driving. A few states will give riders who are driving intoxicated on trails tickets, as it has the potential to endanger others.

Driving recklessly can come with punishments, which can be easily avoided when reading and understanding the state laws regarding the potential for harm to befall any persons or wildlife unnecessarily, due to lack of understanding and information.

There are many forms of reckless driving, but by reading on the laws and informing one’s self, it can be easily avoided and even shared with others to make all trail riding safe and enjoyable.

Bike Registration (In Some States)

How and when you should register your dirt bike varies greatly depending on the state and what the law says about off-roading. So, research your state and what they require about dirt bike riders on ATV trails and even trails around the state. Some states vary greatly from others.

In the state of Kansas, it is not required that dirt bikes, or even all-terrain vehicles, to be registered so as to ride them around the state. This is not necessarily unique and may make it easier for riders so they don’t have to pay for extra registration or anything of the such.

However, in the state of Maine, it is required that All-Terrain Vehicles be registered. It is an annual fee of $33 for residents of Maine. However, it is not required for ATVs that are ridden on someone’s personal property, government entities, or certain farm uses.

Each state has its own certain set of rules and laws for dirt biking and riding on trails street legally or simply just for off-roading and fun purposes. Whether you live in Colorado or Alabama, each state has laws in accordance with registration and how to go about registering your dirt bike for your adventures.

Are There Dirt Bike Size Restrictions?

In the state of Kentucky, any person that is under the age of sixteen is not allowed to drive an off-roading vehicle that has an engine exceeding ninety cubic centimeters without direct parental supervision and is also wearing protective gear. Any person under the age of twelve cannot drive an off-roading vehicle with an engine exceeding the size of seventy cubic centimeters without parental supervision and protective gear.

There are other states similar to Kentucky, in which they make rules and regulations and put them in place to protect riders from riding something that they can’t easily control and be able to safely ride and stop at a reasonable time. States are protecting the riders and ensuring that parents are protecting their children against unnecessary harm.

Though there are different sizes and restrictions with each state, riders who are inexperienced should still be under strict parental or guardian supervision and should be well-informed about the importance of safety and riding a bike that is appropriate for their size, age, and experience.

Dirt bike size restrictions are for the safety of all riders, not just those riding a bike that is too big for them, especially for inexperienced and younger riders, so as to be in accordance with the law and unnecessary injury that could be prevented from proper sizing and power usage for underage riders.

No matter what your age is, how tall you are, or the experience you may or may not have, riding a dirt bike that is comfortable for you and is able to be easily controlled and maneuvered by the rider is an important aspect of getting a dirt bike that is just right for you.

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Jim Harmer

I'm the co-owner of Dirt Bike Planet. I live in Star, Idaho and enjoy dirt biking with my wife and two boys throughout the Idaho mountains.

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