ATV laws reviewed

All-terrain vehicles, or ATVs, are made for off-road use and can be a great means of recreation, but they can also be dangerous, especially when used on roads where they are generally prohibited. About 1,700 ATV riders died in crashes on public roads in the US from 2007 to 2011. Although many ATVs can reach highway speeds, their low-pressure tires are not designed for paved surfaces. In addition, many models are prone to roll over.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently studied ATV crashes to learn more about them. The study revealed that 2/3 of fatal ATV crashes occurred on public or private roads. They also found that the vast majority of ATV riders killed in crashes on public roads are 16 or older and male. Few fatally injured riders wear helmets, and, according to the study, 43 percent are impaired by alcohol. Locally, the Franklin County Traffic Safety Board coordinates enforcement checkpoints to insure compliance with applicable NYS Vehicle and Traffic Laws (VTL). At these checkpoints, enforcement officers check for registration and proper affixing of the registration number on the vehicle, required under section 2282 of VTL. They check for approved helmets, signs of impairment by the operator, and other obvious violations.

Section 2403 of VTL prohibits operating an ATV on a highway except to make an approximately 90-degree crossing of a highway (except for interstate or controlled access highways), and then only if the operator comes to a complete stop before crossing and yields the right-of-way to all oncoming traffic that constitutes an immediate hazard.

However, an ATV may be legally operated on a highway which has been designated and posted as open for travel by ATVs in accordance with the provisions of VTL section 2405. This section allows designation of certain roads or a portion of a road for this purpose by the municipality that has jurisdiction over the road when in the determination of the municipality (county, town, village, etc.) it is otherwise impossible for ATVs to gain access to areas or trails adjacent to the highway. This does NOT give towns, etc. blanket permission to designate all town roads open to ATVs, but when it so chooses, a local law or ordinance is required by any municipality other than the state.

Section 2403 of VTL prohibits operation of ATVs on public lands unless they are so designated and posted as open to ATVs. They also cannot be operated on private property unless permission is obtained from the owner of such property.

Section 2406 of VTL covers necessary equipment for ATV operation. This includes brakes in good condition, a spark arrester, tires having at least 2/32 of an inch of tread with no visible breaks, cuts, exposed cords, bumps or bulges, and a lighted white headlight and a lighted red taillight, approved by the commissioner, when operated for one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise. Further, No person shall operate an ATV or ride as a passenger on an ATV unless he/she is wearing a protective helmet of a type approved by the commissioner of motor vehicles.

If an ATV is operated anywhere in this state other than on property of the owner of the ATV, section 2407 of VTL requires an owner’s policy of liability insurance.

Section 2410 of VTL prohibits operation of an ATV by a person under the age of 16 except upon lands owned or leased by his parent or guardian unless he is under general supervision or a person 18 years of age or over, or a person 16 or over who holds an ATV safety certificate. A person between 10 and 16 years of age who has received safety training as prescribed by the commissioner of motor vehicles and has received the appropriate ATV safety certificate may operate an ATV in the same manner as a person who is 16 or older.

The above is not a complete description of all the laws applicable to ATV use but rather a quick view of the most pertinent laws. The complete listing of VTLs applicable to ATVs can be found under article 48-C, sections 2400 through 2413.

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