Arizona ATV Laws

Posted on November 19, 2022 in Personal Injury

Arizona ATV laws keep riders safe, protect the environment, and prevent accidents. They also help law enforcement and other agencies manage the number and conduct of ATV riders. This includes work done by Arizona State Parks, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the U.S. National Park Service, and local police departments.

Unfortunately, ATVs are dangerous. When riders do not follow the rules or take unnecessary risks, injuries can and do occur. When someone suffers injuries in an ATV accident caused by another party’s carelessness or recklessness, a personal injury lawyer can help the victim understand their rights and fight for compensation.

Defining “ATV” Under Arizona Law

Arizona categorizes all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) with other types of off-highway vehicles (OHVs).

All ATV laws apply to ATVs and other types of off-road vehicles, including:

  • Utility terrain vehicles (UTVs)
  • Side-by-sides
  • Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs)
  • Motorcycles
  • Mopeds
  • Snowmobiles
  • Three-wheelers
  • Four-wheelers

In general, Arizona categorizes any motorized vehicle meant to operate on natural terrain as an OHV. Natural terrain could include land, dirt, sand, water, snow, or ice. When used on private land, any operator of any age can ride as long as they meet certain qualifications, including having the correct-sized OHV.

The user must have a driver’s license when operating the OHV on:

  • Municipal, county, or state roads
  • Some U.S. Forest Service roads
  • BLM-managed roadways

This helps reduce the risk of car vs. OHV collisions and regulates the number of ATVs on the road. In comparison to some states, Arizona has relatively relaxed OHV oversight. Add the state’s wide range of landscapes, National Parks, and other public lands, and it’s easy to understand why Arizona is a popular place to ride.

Arizona OHV Safety and Equipment Laws

Arizona OHV Safety and Equipment LawsState law requires all riders have certain equipment to operate safely in the state, which differs somewhat between OHVs operating on private property, public lands, and public roads. In general, there is little oversight for ATVs used on private land. However, it’s always a good idea to follow safety rules and have the best safety equipment regardless of where you ride.

It’s also worth noting that riders who cause accidents on private land can face civil consequences if they behave carelessly or recklessly and injure someone else.

According to Arizona State Parks, the required equipment for riding OHVs includes:

An Approved Helmet

All riders under the age of 18 must wear a fitted and fastened DOT-approved helmet when operating or as a passenger on any OHV. Wearing a helmet is the best way to prevent concussions and more serious traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Experts recommend that all riders wear a helmet regardless of age. The only exception to this Arizona law is when the vehicle has a fully enclosed cab.

Spark Arrestor Device

All OHVs in the state must have a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-approved spark arrestor device. These devices greatly reduce the risk of fire. Fires are a significant concern because of the risk of burn injuries and high wildfire risks in many parts of the state.


OHV laws require each vehicle to have a muffler or another noise-dissipative device. OHVs should not make sounds while operating that are above 96 decibels. A muffler helps protect OHV operators, riders, others nearby, animals, and protected cultural areas.

Working Lights

Arizona law requires each OHV to have working brakes and brake lights. OHVs must also have working headlights and taillights if operated after dark. The state defines “after dark” as the time between a half hour after sunset and a half hour before sunrise.

Brake lights must include at least one red rear reflector if the brake light does not also reflect. Arizona bans the sale of new ATVs and other OHVs without a brake light.

OHVs must also have headlights and tail lights if ridden between sunset and sunrise.

Safety Flag

In some areas, OHVs must have a safety flag—generally in sandy areas like dunes. Safety flags greatly increase the OHV’s visibility. The flag must be at 6×12 inches and flown at least eight feet from the ground. Most stores that sell OHVs have options for attaching this type of flag.

Rearview Mirrors

Arizona law requires rearview mirrors on all OHVs to keep operators looking forward and help prevent accidents.

Seats and Footrests

All OHVs must have seats and footrests for the operator and each passenger on the vehicle. This law not only helps prevent injuries, but it also ensures there are not more riders on the ATV than the manufacturer intended.

Arizona OHV Laws Also Require Registration

All OHVs ridden on public property must have a certificate of title to receive the required OHV decal. There are some exceptions to decal requirements, but most vehicles crossing public roads or driving on public land must have a decal.

Getting an OHV decal requires you to:

  • Have a certificate of title for the vehicle
  • Get a license plate for the OHV
  • Purchase an OHV Decal
  • Affix the decal to the license plate

If you hope to use your OHV on city, county, or state roads or highways, you must register it for on-highway use. A street-legal ATV will have the letters “MC” on the license plate. Most OHVs have “RV” on the license plate instead.

Registering an OHV as a street-legal vehicle requires additional equipment and taking other steps to make it safe to share the street with other drivers. Since street use includes driving among cars, the law requires most of the safety features and equipment required on cars. In addition to the required equipment mentioned above, this includes:

Installing a License Plate Light

All vehicles on the road must have a working license plate light, including OHVs working as street-legal vehicles. Many come with this equipment, but others might need to install a light before registering.

Ensuring You Have a Working Horn

A working horn helps warn other drivers of a potential accident and ensures they see OHV riders. The law requires a horn that is loud enough to hear from at least 200 feet away. Many accessory shops sell add-on horns.

Getting Liability Insurance Coverage

Any vehicle driven on streets or highways must have minimum auto liability coverage, including street-legal OHVs. This coverage pays for injuries and property damage suffered by victims of any accident you cause. Many OHV operators invest in additional insurance to cover the cost of their injuries and damages after an accident.

Passing Emissions in Some Areas

Some areas in Arizona require emissions testing for OHVs. If you live in or use your OHV to commute to these areas, you will need to get the emissions tested. If you must test the emissions on your car when registering it, you will likely need to take your OHV through the same process. Your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office can provide you with more information.

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Registration for Non-Residents

Arizona also requires non-residents to have an OHV decal to ride legally in the state. A special non-resident decal is available for a much lower rate than resident registration and decal costs. The decal is valid for one year and is sold by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Under Arizona law, the exemptions for non-residents are the same as for resident operators. These include operating on private land, participating in special events, loading and unloading, and more.

If you live in a neighboring state or elsewhere and ride in Arizona regularly, paying the fee for the decal is a good way to avoid legal trouble. Receiving a ticket for not having a decal could ruin a fun day, and many law enforcement and land management agencies crack down on this law.

You will need a decal for each OHV—they are not transferable between vehicles.

Laws Related to Arizona OHV Use

There are many laws related to the use and operation of OHVs, including following all traffic laws when on public roadways.

Some of the most important laws directly related to OHVs include:

  • No reckless operation, including taking unnecessary risks or putting others in danger
  • Only travel on roads and trails designated for motorized use (and only according to your registration)
  • Do not ride in restricted areas or in ways that could cause harm to wildlife habitats, natural resources, cultural areas, or other property
  • Do not remove or damage signs
  • Do not damage protected native plants per Arizona law
  • Do not violate state laws related to hunting or harassing wildlife
  • Wear eye protection or have a windscreen when operating on the street

Understanding where you can legally ride based on your registration is also important. When a road has a route marker with vertical numbers, any OHV with a plate and decal can use the road. When the route marker has horizontal numbers, you must have a street-legal OHV with an MC plate and a current OHV decal to ride.

Arizona Laws About ATV Injuries and Liability

NTL-top-40-40-memberPeople who own and operate OHVs must follow many equipment, safety, registration, and use laws. In addition, they must follow all traffic laws when operating on a roadway. Failure to follow these laws could lead to collisions and other injury accidents.

When an ATV operator causes an injury accident, they are likely liable for any injuries sustained by others. In some cases, the owner of the ATV could also be liable. Liability generally means financial responsibility. The liable party may have to pay for medical care, lost income, property damage, pain and suffering, and other damages suffered by any victims.

The same laws apply for fault and liability regardless of the OHV’s registration or whether the victim was a passenger, riding another ATV, a pedestrian, or another party. They also apply on private land or in a public area. If someone else caused your ATV accident injuries, you likely have a case for compensation against them.

Your Rights as a Victim of an ATV Accident

When one party acts carelessly or recklessly and causes another to suffer injuries, the at-fault party is generally legally responsible for the other’s expenses and losses. Again, this could include medical bills, missed income, pain and suffering, property damage, and more.

In car accident cases, the at-fault driver’s auto liability insurance could pay for the victim’s damages. The same is true when a street-legal ATV driver causes an accident. However, there are other options when an OHV operator without an auto liability policy causes a crash.

Proving Negligence

You have the right to pursue compensation after an injury accident. To do so, you will need to prove that negligence occurred.

The four necessary elements of negligence are:

  • Duty of care (typically created by applicable traffic laws)
  • Breach of duty (often by violating those laws)
  • Causation
  • Harm

For example, imagine an OHV driver without proper lights ran through an intersection after dark and collided with your ATV. An attorney can help you prove how they acted negligently, the laws they broke, and how it led to your crash and injuries.

Working with a personal injury lawyer familiar with the state’s OHV laws and these types of ATV accidents could make the process much easier. You can focus on recovering from your injuries while your attorney handles your claim.

Take Steps to Learn More After an Arizona ATV Injury Accident

Bob Boatman Personal Injury Attorney

Robert W. Boatman, Personal Injury Attorney

If you suffered injuries in an ATV accident, you have the right to hold the at-fault party legally responsible. They could have insurance to help pay for your medical bills, lost income, and other expenses. Your best resource to learn more is a personal injury law firm near you.

Most personal injury attorneys provide free case assessments and represent clients based on contingency fees, which means you should not have to pay anything up front. Additional information and advocacy could help you make important decisions about your case. Contact an attorney and request a free consultation to learn more.