California ATV Laws

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All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) can be incredibly exhilarating to operate. Additionally, these vehicles are practical ways for many people to get around in certain areas of the state. However, it is crucial for any ATV operator to understand the laws in California related to the use of these vehicles. The improper use of an ATV is not only against the law, but it is also dangerous; improper use of an ATV could be the cause of an accident in Long Beach, CA.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), we can see that California is one of the leading states when it comes to ATV deaths over the last few decades. Here, we want to highlight the California ATV laws so that you, your friends, and your family members know what to expect when operating these vehicles in this state.

What Defines an ATV in California?

When we turn to California Vehicle Code 111, we can see that ATVs have several characteristics that differentiate them from other off-roading vehicles. According to the law, ATVs:

  • Have a frame no wider than 50 inches
  • Weigh no more than 900 pounds
  • Have one seat for a rider to straddle while operating
  • Have no more than one additional seat for a passenger
  • Have handlebars as the form of steering
  • Have three or four low-pressure wheels

Green and Red ATV Stickers

The Department of Motor Vehicles in California has stringent air quality laws regarding most vehicles in the state. This includes ATVs. The DMV will issue either green or red stickers for ATVs, and both stickers act as a form of registration.

A green sticker allows ATV riders to operate these vehicles on public lands the state deems acceptable for off-road vehicle recreation. Green sticker ATVs meet the California Air Resource Board’s (CARB) air emission standards. This allows a person to operate their ATV at any time during the year. Green stickers cost drivers $52, and they must be renewed every two years period

Red stickers restrict ATV riders from operating these vehicles during a non-designated riding season. These stickers will only apply to off-road vehicles made in 2003 and beyond that do not meet the CARB’s fair emission standards.

ATV Riding Laws in California

California has laws regarding ATV usage, and some of the most important of these laws that operators must remember include the following:
All operators of an ATV must be able to reach the vehicle’s pedals and all ATV controls.

  • Parents are legally responsible for choosing an ATV of appropriate size for their children and for monitoring their children while they use them.
  • Riders can only carry passengers if the ATV has a seat specifically made for passenger transportation.
  • Every ATV rider must use a helmet.
  • ATV riders aged 14-17 are required to obtain an ATV safety certificate.
  • ATV riders aged 14-17 must be supervised by an adult when they operate the vehicle.
  • Any rider under 13 must be supervised by an adult who possesses an ATV safety certificate.

In addition to these important rules, all off-road vehicles must obey the speed limit and all of the traffic laws when they are on the roadways. When off-road, riders must use their judgment related to speed. If a rider is within 50 feet of another individual, animal, or campsite, the off-road speed limit is 15 mph.

Any ATV in the state must have working lights (front and back) that are to be activated 30 minutes before sunset and remain on until 30 minutes after sunrise. No person is allowed to operate an ATV while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs, and open container laws apply with these vehicles.