All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and Utility Terrain Vehicles (UTVs) are incredibly common in Wisconsin and deeply embedded in our state’s culture. Whether for summer fun ‘up north’ or essential farm work, they play a significant role. However, it’s vital to recognize that four-wheelers can be hazardous if used incorrectly, unlawfully, or recklessly. Trailz, a top app for ATV trail maps, taps into the legality of operating these vehicles on Wisconsin’s roads in this blog.
Is it Legal to Drive ATVs on Roads in Wisconsin?
The brief response is negative. Nevertheless, it’s not a strict rule; there exist specific situations where exceptions apply. In general, ATVs and UTVs cannot be operated on roads like conventional vehicles. Below, we’ll delve deeper into these exceptions, so let’s begin.
Illegal Areas to Drive an ATV
- Dirt Paths or Roadside Ditches
Generally, it’s against the law to drive an ATV or UTV along town roads, county highways, or state highways in dirt paths or roadside ditches. There might be special cases where it’s allowed, such as when there’s a designated trail running parallel to the road or if the vehicle is being used with explicit permission on private land and remains at least 10 feet away from the road surface. However, it’s important to note that riding in ditches or unimproved right-of-ways alongside interstate highways is strictly prohibited.
- Public Roadways
In nearly every instance, operating an ATV or UTV on public roads is prohibited. ATV routes and trails typically do not provide access to residential areas, making it generally impossible for users to use ATVs or UTVs for commuting to and from their residences.
Legal Areas to Drive an ATV
- Riding Trails and Designated Routes
ATV trails are specifically reserved for the use of ATVs and UTVs, and they are typically indicated by brown signs featuring a white ATV symbol. Many ATV routes, on the other hand, are shared with various recreational activities, including snowmobilers, equestrians, motorcyclists, and cyclists. ATV and UTV operators are required to adhere to guidelines that include reducing speed and maintaining a safe distance from other trail users.
- Agricultural and Farm Utilization
Given their widespread use in agricultural settings, ATVs and UTVs are permitted to operate on roadways solely for the purpose of transporting agricultural machinery or goods. Operators using ATVs and UTVs for agricultural tasks are still required to adhere to regulations, including keeping to the right-hand side of the road, employing turn signals and headlights, and ensuring that these vehicles are appropriately registered for agricultural use.
Consequences of Breaking Wisconsin’s ATV Regulations
It’s crucial to adhere to Wisconsin’s ATV regulations to prevent penalties, potential incarceration, and safety hazards. Enforcement of these laws can be carried out by Conservation Wardens, state patrol officers, county sheriffs, or municipal peace officers if they catch you violating the regulations. Violating ATV laws in Wisconsin can result in fines ranging from $150 to $2,000, and you may also face a maximum prison term of up to one year.