ATV ownership and use has been consistently growing in the state of Minnesota since statistics on it were first tracked in 1984. With the exception of a lull in sales between 2009 and 2010, the state has added several thousand new registered ATV owners to its rolls every year. In 2015 there were over 407,000 registered ATVs in the state in total, up over 15,000 from 2014. ATV ownership has grown over ten times from what it was in 1990 and has almost tripled since the turn of the century.
Of course, with this increase in ownership, there has been a corresponding rise in ATV accidents. 2015 saw 245 accidents in total. Though this was an increase of 16 from the previous year, accident totals have actually been relatively stable despite the rapid growth of ownership, gradually decreasing most years from a peak of 350 in 2006. However, while there were less injuries in 2015 as compared to 2014, there were more fatalities.
How Are ATVs Used?
ATVs have a wide range of both recreational and commercial uses.
Recreationally, the most common use is in riding on trails and through wooded areas for pleasure, using the ATV’s off-road capabilities to cross terrain that would usually be impassable to vehicles. A popular offshoot of this is “mudding,” when muddy fields, streams or lakebeds are specifically sought out and participants attempt to fling the mud around as much as possible. Races on tracks are also held regularly at places like the Moto City Raceway in Browerville.
Commercial use is most common on farms as a quick way to cover large fields. They’re also used by any organization that may need to quickly move through rough terrain including law enforcement, emergency medical or search and rescue teams, and surveyors.
Registration And Usage Regulations
All ATVs must be registered in Minnesota, with only a handful of exceptions such as those that are more than 25 years old and those brought into the state by non-residents who will not keep them in the state for more than 30 days. A full list of exemptions can be seen in the Off-Highway Vehicle Regulations pamphlet.
There are different registrations for public and private use. A public registration is needed to ride the ATV on state-owned land, and is good for three years. A registration for use on private land is good until ownership of the vehicle is transferred. Owners who intend to use the ATV in both settings will need to get both types of registration.
Are ATVs Ever Street Legal In Minnesota?
An ATV can never be legally operated in the lanes of any type of road in the state, but there are some circumstances where one can be operated on the shoulder or on the extreme right side of city streets and township or county roads.
There are two basic classes of ATV. Those with a total width of over 50 inches between the outside of each tire rim are Class II ATVs, and may be legally operated on the shoulder or sides of these roads unless there is a local law forbidding it. Class I ATVs, which have a width of under 50 inches, may also be operated on these roads if they are equipped with a steering wheel, seat belts and a roll-over protective structure.
How Do ATV Accidents Happen?
Collisions between ATVs and other vehicles are relatively rare. Most ATV accidents happen in isolation due to losing control of the vehicle or colliding with a terrain feature like a tree or a rut.
Out of the most serious accidents in the state in 2015, only one was caused by a collision between the ATV and another moving vehicle on the road. Most were caused by a rollover either from turning too sharply or from hitting something in an off-road area. While alcohol was involved in some of these incidents, serious injury and fatality happens every year to experienced ATV drivers who are completely sober. Injury and death is most commonly caused by the driver being pinned under the vehicle after a rollover, or being thrown from the vehicle while still moving at high speed.
ATV Safety In Minnesota
The AV Safety Institute publishes general guidelines that all ATV riders would be wise to follow. These include never riding while intoxicated or under the influence, never carrying passengers on ATVs designed for only one rider, and selecting an ATV that is appropriate for your age and weight.
It is also important to ride with a full complement of safety equipment. This equipment should meet Department of Transportation (DOT) standards where applicable. Riders should always be equipped with a helmet, gloves, goggles, long sleeves, long pants and boots that rise to a point over the ankles.
If you’re riding in Minnesota’s extremely cold winters, there are some extra precautions that should be taken. Look for areas with firm snow, as soft snow can cause the ATV to get stuck. Ensure that each trail you plan to use is legal for ATVs — they are off-limits to some snowmobile trails due to the potential for the tires to cause dangerous ruts. Also be aware that while some trails may be frozen in the morning, by afternoon they may be slushy and become impassable for an ATV.
Finally, ensure that the ATV is properly maintained for the cold. This means adding the appropriate oil for the season, as well as adding antifreeze to models that are cooled by water.
Though a safety class is not mandatory for those over the age of 16, it may be a wise idea for those who are new to ATVing. The ATV RiderCourse is recommended by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Have you or someone close to you been injured in an ATV accident in Minnesota? Contact us to learn more about your rights and how legal representation can help you to get fair compensation.