— Part One of a new series —
Previously we featured a guide to turn-signal and street-legal kits for UTVs, as almost half of the 50 states now allow counties and towns to set standards for limited OHV use on county roads. Now, 22 states allow street licensing of OHVs for connecting national and state forest trails via paved roads, either as motorcycles or farm implements. Every UTV comes with warning labels and manuals strictly forbidding operation on paved roads, but many OHV-friendly states allow limited use to connect trails with roads and to access gas stations, stores, restaurants and hotels in OHV-tourism townships.
UTV Action magazine is based in northern Los Angeles County in southern California. While it is possible to license dirt bikes with dual-sport kits in some rural California counties, it is thus far impossible to license UTVs and ATVs for the street. This is true despite California reaping many billions of dollars a year from OHV recreation, so not allowing rural street use is a shame. California already has the highest vehicle registration fees and gasoline taxes in the nation, yet you really need long-travel suspension to drive on California’s dilapidated roads, especially sections of the I-5 and I-405 in Los Angeles.
So, we spend as much time as possible testing in more OHV-friendly states and riding their trails. Three of the most OHV-friendly states close to Cali are Arizona, Utah and Colorado, all of which also have great trails with some of the most awesome scenery in America. So, let’s look into what it takes to register and operate a UTV on the rural roads of Arizona, Utah and Colorado.
It’s common to be driving in Tucson, Arizona’s second-largest city and see UTVs zipping around city streets, even downtown. On the newly opened La Paz trail, many towns even allow non-licensed UTVs to use city streets to access gas, parts, groceries and a room for the night. Licensing a UTV for the street doesn’t even require a safety inspection; just pay the registration fee, show proof of insurance and receive a motorcycle license plate. This is in addition to Arizona’s OHV registration.
Arizona requirements for UTVs on streets are a horn, rear-view mirror, license-plate bracket and light, DOT-approved tires, eye protection and insurance. This is an incidental-use provision, meaning you’re not using the vehicle as a main source of transportation, although we do know of special-needs people with hand-controlled UTVs that are their main form of transportation.
DRIVING IN UTV-FRIENDLY UTAH
Central Utah’s Paiute trail system was built specifically with OHV tourism in mind, and most towns have designated OHV routes for access to gas stations, grocery and auto-parts stores, restaurants and hotels. Utah requires OHV registration and honors out-of-state registrations. Temporary permits are issued for residents of states without OHV-registration programs. Utah also has very OHV-friendly licensing requirements for street use in all counties but Salt Lake County. Senate Bill 258 recently removed restrictions on tire size (formerly no larger than 29 inches), making UTVs legal on all roads but Interstate highways and limited-use roads (NPS, etc.). The bill raises the OHV speed limit to 50 mph.
Utah’s requirements for street-licensing UTVs are turn signals, a horn, side-view mirrors, license-plate bracket and light, eye protection (windshield/face shield/goggles), and liability insurance. A valid OHV sticker is also required, and the OHV license plate is the same as a motorcycle plate.
CONFORMING IN COLORFUL COLORADO
Colorado has historically been lenient regarding licensing dirt bikes to connect Forest Service trails via county roads but had shunned UTVs and ATVs until 2015’s HB15-1054. This legislation would have authorized a person to drive an off-highway vehicle (OHV) on a county road if the person had a driver’s license, obeyed the rules of the road and stayed below 40 mph. Counties would have published maps of all roadways available for limited OHV use. Owners would have applied for and displayed the license plate issued by the DMV and would have had insurance for the UTV. This bill passed the house and senate and was to be signed, but then rich Greenies in towns like Aspen and Crested Butte shot it down to the chagrin of western-slope towns like Silverton, Ouray, Lake City and others who depend on tourism dollars. So, Colorado counties set their own standards and designate authorized routes on county roads and city streets, instead of having a statewide standard.
Colorado equipment requirements met by most UTVs are working head-, tail- and brake-lights; a muffler; and spark arrestor. The driver must have a valid driver’s license; OHV registration and insurance; and wear eyeglasses, goggles or a helmet with eye protection. Passengers and/or drivers under 18 years of age must wear a helmet. Rear-view mirrors are also advised in many counties. For more information, see www.staythetrail.org.
STAY TUNED FOR MORE STATES
In future updates, we will cover what it takes to drive UTVs on the streets of Nevada, Texas, Minnesota, Wyoming, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, North and South Dakota, Washington, Michigan, Kentucky, Nebraska, Ohio, Vermont, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and Tennessee.
Until then, ride safe, have fun and don’t get too sideways on the pavement!