Sheriff’s Corner: Educate yourself on all-terrain vehicle laws
ATV traffic and complaints are not new to Cass County, but the number of complaints and their severity has increased drastically over recent years.
Last month we covered boating and water safety. Along the same format this month and applicable as the seasons change to different types of recreation and the spring trail closures come to an end, we need to address all-terrain vehicle safety and our response to ongoing ATV complaints, crashes, incidents and, specifically, youth safety while operating ATVs.
Our office receives a large number of ATV complaints year-round, along with inquiries and questions on the legal operation of these machines. Our deputies spend a considerable amount of time enforcing these laws and regulations and providing educational efforts on legal operation to riders. Sadly, we also respond to and investigate numerous injury crashes and four fatality crashes in 2022 involving ATVs in Cass County. We would like to review legal ATV operation and considerations between Class I and II ATVs prior to your ride.
We feel strongly about education and value its usefulness. Education is the key to safety and preventing crashes and incidents from occurring. If you were born after July 1, 1987, Minnesota law requires you to complete an approved ATV safety course. Many riders that we encounter do not know about the safety certificate requirement and do not have the certification. This makes their operation of an ATV illegal and are often cited.
After you have completed your safety course, you will receive a safety certificate, which you must carry whenever you are riding an ATV or UTV on Minnesota’s public lands. Cass County collaborates with the Woodtick Wheelers ATV club offering safety classes usually in May and in June of the year. The next safety class is June 10. June 10. For additional Information on courses visit https://tinyurl.com/mt8p69nr .
Another common infraction that we encounter is helmet use. Anyone under 18 years of age must wear a DOT-approved helmet. This includes Class II use.
ATV traffic and complaints are not new to Cass County, but the number of complaints and their severity has increased drastically over recent years. Most complaints stem from rural areas where ATV traffic is going through from one riding area to another. Many of these complaints are property damage, trespassing and damage to roadways or ditches, rights of ways and in some cases private fields. This spring, the Cass County Sheriff’s Office will be conducting high visibility patrols in these areas that we have noted to be high in complaints and high traffic areas. This same patrol was conducted last year with good results. We will continue to patrol and enforce ATV laws, offer education and issue verbal and written warnings along with state citations. It is no secret that we will be out enforcing these things — we want you to be aware of that and if your riding habits need to be changed, we encourage you to do so on your own without creating incidents that we will respond to.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has defined off-highway vehicles (OHVs) to include:
- All-terrain vehicles (ATVs): Class 1 ATVs have a total width of 50 inches or less from outside of tire rim to outside of tire rim (conventional ATVs with handlebars) and Class 2 ATVs have a total width greater than 50 inches, but not more than 65 inches from outside of tire rim to outside of tire rim (side by side machines).
- Off-Highway Motorcycles (OHMs).
- Off-Road Vehicles (ORVs) such as 4x4s.
ATV General Operations
- A valid driver’s license is required to operate an ATV on a road right-of-way.
- Class 2 ATVs must be operated on the far right-hand side of a County or Township road, unless prohibited by local regulations. If traveling at a slower speed than other traffic on the township road, the ATV should be driven as close as practical to the right-hand edge of the road. It is illegal for the Class 2 machine to operate in the ditch in this instance.
- Class 1 ATV operation — Class 1 must be operated off the roadway in the ditch area of a public roadway. On a bridge, a roadway shoulder, or the inside bank of a public road, right of way is necessary to avoid obstructions to travel or in environmentally sensitive areas. You must remain in the farthest right-hand lane, enter the roadway within 100 feet of the bridge, obstacle, or area, and make the crossing without delay.
- You may operate a Class 2 ATV on private land without a valid driver’s license. With a valid driver’s license you may operate on frozen lake surfaces, state forest roads, designated Class 2 trails and use areas. If not prohibited by the road authority or other local laws, you may operate with a valid driver’s license on the shoulder or extreme right side of county roads and on the right side of township roads and city streets. Operation on road right-of-way of a trunk, county state-aid, or county highway may only be used to access businesses or make trail connections. A left turn may be made if it is safe to do so.
- Class 2 ATVs may not be operated on the shoulder of a state trunk highway.
It is important to educate yourself on these laws, as well as guests and relatives that may be coming to your residence or cabin to recreate. By following these laws closely and respecting private property, we can continue to participate in this sport and use trail areas to recreate safely. As always, we encourage safe and legal riding and operating for all ages of enthusiasts.
If you have specific questions that you would like answered in this column or in person, please feel free to contact me anytime using one of the following methods: By email at firstname.lastname@example.org ; by phone at 218-547-1424 or 800-450-2677; or by mail or in person at the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, 303 Minnesota Ave. W, P.O. Box 1119, Walker, MN, 56484.