Sheriff Warns of ATV Dangers and Laws


Duke Ellington once said, “A problem is a chance for you to do your best.” With the constant growth in our county and the continuous reports from citizens about problems with ATVs, I would like to reprint a letter that I did several months ago. Hopefully, this will provide a good reminder to the citizens of our county both old and new.

To The Citizens of Pinal County:

There has been a lot of concern about the safe operation of All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) recently. While we feel that responsible operation of ATVs is a good family sport, we do stress the word responsible. Often times parents, with very good intentions, purchase ATVs for their children without knowing the regulations required for the proper operation of ATVs. So in the interest of preventing problems and fostering voluntary compliance, I would like to share some of the regulations that you should be aware of before purchasing an ATV.

The Motor Vehicle Division of the Arizona Department of Transportation is responsible for title and registration of motor vehicles in Arizona. Title and registration are two different things. The title is the proof of ownership while the registration allows you to operate your vehicle on public roads. For title purposes ATVs are classified as off-road recreational motor vehicles. All new ATVs sold in Arizona are issued a title. You will also receive a license plate with the title. This is not a registration plate and does not allow you to operate your ATV on streets or highways. This plate or registration plate must be securely fastened in a clearly visible position to the rear of the ATV. A registration license plate is necessary if you want to operate your ATV on roads requiring motor vehicle registrations. With some equipment modifications, ATVs can be registered in Arizona.

12You may operate your ATV on some dirt roads in Arizona without the need to register or insure your vehicle. Arizona revised statute 28-2153.D.9 exempts an ATV from registration if you are operating on a dirt road in an unincorporated area of the state. For the purposes of motor vehicle registration and insurance, “dirt road” means an unpaved or ungraveled road that is not maintained by this state or a city, town or county of this state. A good rule of thumb is that if you see highway signs such as speed limit or stop signs, or the road has been developed or built up with gravel or natural materials, your vehicle must be registered. With proper registration riding an ATV on a paved road is not illegal, but it is unsafe. ATVs are not designed to be operated on a paved surface. They are difficult to maneuver and increase the danger of an accident.

To operate your ATV on a street or highway, you must observe all traffic laws and regulations including:

* You must have a driver’s license
* Your ATV must be registered
* Your ATV must be insured
* Registration and proof of insurance must be carried with the ATV
* Persons under 18 must wear a helmet
* All persons must wear eye protection
* You may not carry a passenger; all manufacturers of ATVs agree that operating an ATV with a passenger can cause loss of control leading to serious injury or death

To register and operate your ATV, on a street or highway your ATV must have the following:

* At least one brake that may be operated by hand or foot
* Brake light
* At least one, but not more than two, headlights that shine at least five hundred feet ahead
* At least one taillight, visible for a least five hundred feet to the rear
* At least one red reflector, if not part of the taillight
* License plate securely fastened to the rear of the ATV
* License plate light
* Horn, audible from a distance of at least two hundred feet
* Muffler in good working order and in constant operation
* Rearview mirror
* Seat and footrests for the operator
* Fuel tank cap

State Trust Lands
To travel on roads and trails not publicly maintained on State Trust Land you must have a recreational permit. The recreation permit allows travel only on existing roads and trails. Cross country travel is prohibited, except for hunters picking up legally killed big game. Chasing or frightening livestock or wildlife is prohibited.

National Forest
Some roads in the national forests require your vehicle to be registered. Roads marked with a horizontal number sign on National Forests generally require motor vehicle registration. Most roads marked with vertical numbered signs are generally open to unregistered motor vehicles.

Bureau of Land Management
Public roads and highways crossing BLM lands require motor vehicle registration. Many back country roads and some washes are open to unregistered motor vehicles. The best information on riding opportunities, rules and seasonal closures can be found by contacting the BLM field office.

Areas Closed to All Motor Vehicles
No person shall drive a motor vehicle cross-country on public or private lands where such cross-county driving is prohibited by rule or regulation or, in the case of private lands, by proper posting. A.R.S. 17-454. All areas and trails within wilderness areas are closed to mechanized use. This includes ATVs motorcycles and bicycles.

Reckless Driving/Driving While Impaired
It is unlawful for a person to drive an off-highway vehicle with reckless disregard for the safety of person or property. The operation of an ATV requires skill and good judgment; drugs and alcohol impair both. You become a danger to yourself and others when you operate your ATV and use drugs or drink alcohol. Laws regarding DUI apply everywhere in the state. You can be arrested if you are driving under the influence, even if you are on a back country trail, and the penalties are the same including jail and the loss of your driver’s license.

Other Tips
The most common complaints that come into the Sheriff’s Office about ATVs are that people do not respect other people or their property. If you are riding in an area don’t kick up dust near homes, don’t make a lot of noise near homes and pick up your trash.

Pinal County Sheriff’s Deputies will be patrolling those areas where we have reports of violations occurring. Citations will be issued and ATVs will be impounded if necessary.

Until next month, be careful and God bless you all.

By Roger L. Vanderpool
Sheriff, Pinal County