Why Are ATVs Not Street Legal?

ATV Front Headlight

As the name implies, an All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV), also known as four-wheeler or quad, is a type of bike with four wheels and can work on almost all types of terrains. Whether it’s sandy, snowy, or muddy, you’re assured this vehicle can help you reach your destination. That is the main reason a lot of people wonder why ATVs are not street legal or cannot be used on local, state, and/or national highways.

So, why are ATVs not street legal? Although ATVs are like motorbikes and can be used for agricultural, recreational, and competition purposes in some states and countries, they are not allowed to be used as a personal transportation system on public streets or highways due to safety.

That further leads most of us to question whether or not we can upgrade our ATVs to make them street legal, especially since quads are not that affordable. As such, below is a discussion of the different safety issues that come with an ATV. You’ll also find several ways to solve the problems in order to make the most of your investment.

Why Are Quad Bikes Not Road Legal?

Quad bikes are usually used on sand dunes, in farms or ranches, and during legal ATV driving competitions. In some states in the USA, you are allowed to use quads during snow or on snowmobile trails when no car can no longer traverse the roads and on side roads, as well as move the quad from one street to a legal point.

Some users and ATV lovers, though, question why are ATVs not street legal, especially since most of them are more fuel-efficient while still meeting the speed needed for you to reach your destination. With that said, here are primary reasons why an ATV can’t be legalized in most countries and states:

1. A Different Tire Type

It may seem like ATVs are safer than motorcycles because they have four wheels or tires. The problem is that ATV tires have wider or bigger tire threads. That means they were designed for dirt and rough roads, and not for paved or flat terrains. Thus, the balance and lateral stability that you get when using it on smooth surfaces would be affected, increasing the possibility of the vehicle rolling over.

2. Heavy Weight

ATVs are almost twice as heavy as a dirt bike. With that said, if you make a mistake while driving it, and then you fall together with it, then you might end up breaking your neck, leg, back, and/or shoulders. Bystanders might also be affected if the ATV tumbles down.

3. Missing Road Safety Features

Four-wheel vehicles, such as buses and cars, need to have seatbelts and airbags to ensure drivers and passengers are safe, while motorcycle and bicycle users are required to wear safety gear like a helmet. Although you also need to wear protective equipment when using an ATV, authorities still choose not to legalize its use on highways because they lack other safety features like turn signals and headlights. Additionally, quads lack crash protection systems.

How to Make an ATV Street Legal

Off-Road Quad Bikes 4-Wheelers

With the reasons why are ATVs not street legal, it can be noted that there is a way to work around the problems. Meaning, ATVs can be street legal as long as they meet your state’s or country’s requirements or laws.

As such, you need to check if you can upgrade your quad to have it registered so that you won’t be wasting any money. After doing so, here are some of the things you can add to or change in your ATV:

1. Pump Up the Tires

As mentioned, ATV tires are meant for difficult terrains and not on smooth surfaces. To make it safer to use and pass registration and licensing inspections, consider replacing the tires with normal pick-up truck tires. Better yet, opt for DOT (Department of Transportation) approved tires.

It is also possible for you to increase your quads’ tire pressure. Normally, the tires have lower pressure to provide the “bounce” needed when driving off-road or on trails. However, such a level of pressure increases the chance of the ATV rolling over when driven on smooth pavements. Adding pressure to reach the normal level would ensure the ATV’s stability.

2. Add Lights and Reflectors

Lights are vital components of vehicles driven on streets because they help you communicate with other drivers, as well as ensure that you’re seen when driving during low-light conditions or nighttime.

The most important lights you should install are tail, turn signal, and brake lights, as well as headlights. That is if your quad does not have them yet. That being said, some countries and states have special headlight brightness requirements that must be met. Sometimes, ATV headlights are not bright enough, so you might need to upgrade them.

Additionally, rear reflectors are also a must-have. Again, some quads already have these, but you might need to add more, depending on your location’s requirements, or you might need to change them to meet the color requirements in your area.

3. Install Mirrors

Rearview and side mirrors are vehicle parts used to help you check your blindspot while driving, preventing you from hitting or bumping a human, another vehicle, or a structure. Some territories would require you to install the three mirrors, while others would only require you to have the side mirrors or one side mirror and the rearview mirror.

4. Replace the Muffler

Quads usually have a noisier muffler as compared to other vehicles, which can be a nuisance to other drivers and the community as a whole. As such, it may be necessary for you to replace it with a quieter version. In some states in the USA, you might need to install a muffler with a spark arrestor.

5. Have a Speedometer

Your quads should have a speedometer because each street has specific speed limits that you need to follow. If your quad doesn’t have one yet, then consider having one installed.

6. Add a Horn

Similar to lights, a horn is also one of the ways to communicate with your fellow drivers, as well as with people crossing or on the road side. The good thing is that this is very easy to install, and most of the time, when you purchase a turn signal light kit, there is a horn included.

7. Affix a Windshield

A windshield is optional since some states and countries allow you to drive your ATVs on-road for as long as the other requirements are met, as well as you wear protective equipment such as a DOT-approved helmet (View on Amazon) and eye-protective gear. Nonetheless, a windshield can protect you from debris, dirt, and bugs that you might encounter when driving.

8. Install a License Plate Holder Plus Lights

Once your quad meets your location’s requirements for it to be street legal, it’s time for you to get a license plate and have it registered. The license plate is your ATV’s identity, which would be of good use during accidents and other untoward incidents.

Getting a license plate is not enough; of course, you need to install it on your ATV. That way, you won’t be pulled over a few times by authorities once they see you driving on the streets. The plate holder you should use must also meet your location’s requirements. On the other hand, the lights will make the license plate visible when you’re driving at night.

Apparently, there are other things that you can install or add to your ATV, but the ones discussed above are the most important items. You can opt to purchase those items individually, not just to meet your location’s requirements but also your wants and needs, but a universal UTV/ATV street legal kit (View on Amazon) would be an ideal purchase, as well.

Will ATVs Ever Be Street Legal?

To conclude, ATVs or quads can be street legal as long as the unit meets the requirements of the country or state where you will use it. Different areas have different guidelines, so it is a must that you check everything first before purchasing any ATV parts that you would put in your ATV.

Additionally, although most kits have straightforward installation instructions, it would be best to seek the help of a professional, especially if it is your first time to install such items.

Likewise, investing in protective gear, not just a helmet or goggles, but also in a motorcycle jacket (View on Amazon), a pair of boots, and shin and knee guards would be best so that you stay safe whether you use your ATV on or off the road. Lastly, you must also make sure that your driver’s license allows you to drive the ATV on the street.

With all that said, if you don’t have an ATV yet and you want to make it usable for off- and on-road adventures and travels, there are available ATVs designed and sold by street-legal ATV manufacturers. Again, even if they are labeled as “street legal”, always make sure they meet the specific requirements of your area.

Kris Peter

Adventure seeker and off-road enthusiast. I love the thrill of going off-road and taking on the elements.

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