Why Are ATVs Not Street Legal?
I recently was sitting near my front porch, watching my younger son ride his Polaris when I thought about something: why are ATVs not street legal? I don’t really know what triggered that thought but maybe it’s because quads are one of few 4-wheeled vehicles that are not allowed to be driven on the pavement. and I thought of several answers for this: maybe It’s because they pose a safety risk on the pavement. maybe it’s because they can be quite low and so trucks and SUVs might not notice them in traffic. maybe it’s because they don’t have seatbelts. all of these answers made sense, but I still decided to investigate a bit more about the matter.
And after a few hours of talking to friends and trying to look for the answer online, I think I got it! what I thought was partly correct: Quads are not road legal because of a few reasons. the first one is that ATV tires are not made for the roads of our country, they are made for dirt environments! the second reason is that quads lack the necessary safety equipment to enjoy legal status on normal roads, like for example seatbelts and airbags. lastly, the third reason is that they do not have headlights and turn signals!
So riding your quads on a public road will probably get you some attention and maybe even some trouble if the cops see you! it also can be dangerous because the quads balance is affected because of the pavement texture. but if you still want to ride quads on pavement because maybe you find that you go faster on the road or you want to go on a straight line, then I have some tips that I recommend that you follow so that you avoid any problems on the street!
So why are ATVs not street legal?
In most US states, quads are not road legal, you cannot ride them on public roads and that is something that really bothers people. and I completely understand that! I have personally ridden quads on a quiet suburb and I felt like the quads are faster on that kind of terrain. but really they are not road legal for a reason: safety! it’s very easy to rollover the quad because normal ATV tires are not like car or motorcycle tires. they are much bouncier and have more give and this means a less stable ride.
the second reason why quads are not road legal is because they lack safety features like airbags, seatbelts and other electronic safety systems, which makes complete sense. in the US there are laws making the installation of airbags and seatbelts mandatory on cars. there are even laws that require bicycle and motorcycle owners to wear helmets at all times. so in short, the state really cares about vehicle safety, and they think that ATVs are dangerous (which is probably true) so they ban them.
But if you really want to ride on a public road or maybe it’s the only way that you can ride your quads at this moment, I would recommend that you ride on as private a road as possible! doing this will make sure that you have an open place to ride and more importantly, you will avoid cops! if you live near a cul-de-sac, then you are lucky because they are the perfect road to ride quads on because they are usually round and pretty open. this is something that many families do when they buy their kids mini-ATVs! other places that you might be able to ride is your backyard if its big enough. if you have a big home then consider yourself lucky because you can ride all day there without getting bothered by anything.
Tips on how to safely ride on pavement
like I said in the introductory paragraphs, riding a quad on pavement increases the risk of something going wrong. I have ridden a bit on paved roads so I have a bit of experience that I can share. I decided to make a few tips for you guys so that you don’t have any problems!
1. Examine the type of pavement that you are going to ride on: Some people are going to find this a little bit weird but I recommend that you check the quality of the pavement where you are going to ride. why do you ask? this is because the smoother the pavement is, the harder it’s going to be for ATV tires to get traction. this is going to hurt the handling of the quad when trying to ride it. the pavement ideally should be a little bit more spiked up and rougher so that the rubber can really embed itself into the gravel. if when you ride the quad it doesn’t have the same acceleration and feeling when you ride offroad when the pavement is probably the culprit. try to ride on an area with rough pavement to solve this.
2. Increase tire pressure. Many ATV riders like to love their tire pressure because that improves their quads offroading performance. however, it can be quite dangerous when riding on normal roads. the reason for this is that decreasing tire pressure can also make the tires more bouncy, which is not bad when offroading or on a trail, but it’s not exactly the best thing on the pavement because you will have less stability while riding, increasing the chances of a rollover. if this is the case for you, increase your tires pressure to normal before you ride to avoid any bad moments!
3. Use normal ATV tires This tip is not mandatory but I would recommend that you use normal ATV tires when trying to ride on a normal road. this is because offroading and mudding tires have very big threads that are not made for the smoother pavement found in everyday roads. depending on your tires condition, they might even burst if they are abused! so if possible try to put normal tires when going for a spin in the neighborhood.
4. Avoid corners when possible. If you are going to be riding on the pavement then riding in a straight line is your best friend! while I completely understand that it can be quite boring, cornering and doing sharp turns on pavement is just asking for trouble. this is simply because of balance issues when riding on such a firm surface. if you really need to turn then drop the velocity drastically and then do it. also, avoid any jerky movements and also avoid doing things like donuts, especially if you aren’t used to pavement!
Laws by state
Now, every state is going to have different laws regarding the legal status of using quads on open roads. there are a few that are rather tolerant about it, but on most states, it’s completely illegal. there are also ways to make your quad street legal in some states. it simply consists of installing the necessary safety gear to the quad, like headlights, taillights, seatbelts, and even a license plate. there are companies that actually sell street legal conversion kits online so if you are interested in that I recommend that you check them out!
Anyways, I found this website on the internet which has detailed information on ATV laws state-by-state.