Arizona ATV Laws

July 27, 2019

An all-terrain vehicle (ATV) is something many people use recreationally in the state of Arizona on trails, pits and sand dunes. Others rely on ATVs at work to get around farms, fields and forests. Still others register their ATVs to make them street-legal. No matter where you plan on riding your ATV in Arizona, you must obey related state laws. Keeping up with the most recent ATV laws can help you operate your vehicle safely, prudently and properly, and avoid a serious ATV accident.

This is why our Phoenix personal injury lawyers have put together this article to explain the most common ATV laws in Arizona.

What Is an OHV?

Arizona law does not refer specifically to ATVs; instead, it calls them OHVs or off-highway vehicles. An off-highway vehicle is one primarily used on natural terrain rather than manmade roads. OHVs are motorized vehicles mostly operated on land, snow, ice or water. An OHV can have two to four wheels. Different types of OHVs include ATVs, utility vehicles, snowmobiles, recreational off-highway vehicles and mopeds.

Where Can You Drive an ATV?

Arizona has two main state laws regarding the operation of OHVs/ATVs: Arizona Revised Statutes 28-1174 and 28-1179. According to the first law, it is illegal to drive an OHV with a reckless disregard for the safety of other people or their properties. It is against the law to drive an OHV in a way that damages wildlife habitats, natural resources, wetlands and properties. It is also illegal to ride an OHV on a road or trail marked as closed by the government or by a private owner if the notice is properly posted.

You may operate an ATV on any trail, road, route or area that is open to such vehicles as indicated by related rules or signs. If you harm plant or animal life, damage the environment, excessively pollute or abuse cultural resources while on an OHV/ATV, you could face criminal charges. Violating these rules could be a Class 2 or Class 3 misdemeanor, punishable with 8 to 24 hours of community service hours and/or a mandatory OHV safety course.

You can drive an ATV on the road if you first make it street legal. Your ATV needs all the proper equipment, including a horn, rearview mirror, brake light and fuel tank caps. Then, you must register your vehicle with the Department of Transportation (DOT) and affix a license plate to the rear of your ATV, along with a license plate light. You need a driver’s license to operate an ATV on public roads and highways. Finally, you will need a certificate of title and an OHV decal.

What Type of Equipment Must an ATV Have?

ARS 28-1179 outlines the various pieces of equipment an ATV or OHV must have to lawfully operate in Arizona. The list starts with adequate brakes that will stop and hold the off-highway vehicle under normal roadway conditions. Without proper brakes, the vehicle could crash and cause serious injuries. The law also includes other required equipment.

  • Headlights and taillights
  • Muffler or similar noise-restricting device
  • Spark arrestor
  • Safety flag (if operating on sand dunes)

You must use your OHV’s headlights and taillights at least 30 minutes after sunset and 30 minutes before sunrise. You may not need all the equipment listed above depending on where you plan on taking your OHV. Some do not apply if you will be on a closed course. The Arizona Game and Fish Commission has the right to add rules and equipment requirements to the law as it sees fit, as long as they do not conflict with federal regulations. Equipment requirements do not apply to private landowners using OHVs for typical agricultural or ranching duties.


Do You Need a Helmet?

According to Arizona law, you do not need to wear a helmet if you are operating an OHV as someone 18 years old or older. Only operators and passengers younger than 18 must wear protective helmets while riding on public or state lands. This law does not apply to riding an OHV on privately owned properties. The helmet must fit correctly and snugly, and have a DOT safety sticker. Obeying all of Arizona’s ATV rules can help you stay on the right side of the law.