Massachusetts ATV Laws

Thousands of people use all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) in the state of Massachusetts. ATVs are popular recreational vehicles at tracks and state forests, as well as for work-related uses on farms and plantations. Like all vehicle types, ATVs are subject to state laws. ATV owners and operators must obey certain rules and restrictions to stay on the right side of these laws. Most of Massachusetts’ related laws center on keeping ATVing safe for everyone involved. Following the rules in Massachusetts could prevent an accident.

The Risks of Riding an ATV

ATVing can be dangerous in many ways. ATVs expose riders to similar risks as riding a motorcycle; without a protective metal shell surrounding the rider, he or she could suffer serious and catastrophic injuries in a collision. The rider could strike the ground or objects such as trees and utility poles in an accident. Certain injuries are more common in ATV accidents compared to typical motor vehicle collisions.

  • Head injuries
  • Skull fractures
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Lower extremity injuries
  • Road rash
  • Traumatic tattooing

The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC’s) latest annual ATV safety report reveals 14,653 people have died in ATV accidents around the U.S. since 1982. Over 3,000 of these fatally injured victims were children under the age of 16. In 2016 alone, the CPSC received reports of 337 deaths related to ATVing. An additional 101,200 victims visited hospitals in the U.S. in 2016 because of ATV accidents. The most common locations of injuries are the arms, head, neck, legs and torso.

ATV Laws in Massachusetts

To increase the safety of ATVing, Massachusetts recently passed some of the strictest related laws in the country. The laws are especially strict regarding child riders: no one under age 14 may operate or ride an ATV in Massachusetts. Children 14 to 17 may only ride ATVs designed specifically for child use, not for adults. Riders under 16 and a half may not operate ATVs on public roads except under direct adult supervision. The law has no exceptions for cases involving adult supervision or special ATV training. The state’s ATV laws apply in both public and private places.

Lawful riders may only use ATVs after passing off-highway vehicle (OHV) safety courses. They must carry their certificates of course completion with them while riding in public places. Riders under 18 must pass additional responsibility courses. A parent or guardian must attend one class with the underage rider. Riders must register their ATVs with the state before riding. All riders must also wear properly fitted helmets that meet federal safety standards. Other statewide ATV laws require certain equipment such as brakes, headlights, red taillights and red rear reflectors. Breaking any state ATV law could result in fines and other penalties.

Liability for ATV Accidents

Despite tough child ATV laws, reports of child ATV fatalities still arise each year in Massachusetts. It appears child riders continue to use ATVs despite state laws prohibiting this practice. Part of the problem is a lack of adequate law enforcement. The director of Plymouth Marine and Environmental Affairs, David Gould, says the state would need at least 90 additional off-road agents to reduce the number of illegal child ATVers. That is twice the current number of agents available.

If an ATV rider was breaking a state law at the time of an accident, he or she may not have grounds to file a lawsuit for personal injuries. If, however, the ATV accident was someone else’s fault, the injured party may be eligible for compensation. ATV accidents involving a supervisor’s negligence, a dangerous premises or a defective vehicle part could lead to a lawsuit in Massachusetts. All ATV accident victims need to consult with personal injury attorneys about potential claims to damages.

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