Continuing in our series of articles analyzing the ATV laws in every state, which stemmed from this article, we are addressing the ATV laws in New Mexico in this article. It should also be noted that, while I am an attorney, I am not your attorney and am not giving legal advice. If you have questions, you should consult a local attorney.
How does New Mexico Define Off-Highway Vehicles (OHV)?
New Mexico includes within its definition of OHVs the following:
- All-terrain vehicles (ATV), also called quads or four wheelers.
- Off-highway motorcycles (OHM), also called dirt bikes.
- Recreational off-highway vehicles (ROV), also called UTVs or side by sides.
Specifically exempted from New Mexico’s OHV requirements are the following:
- Vehicles registered for use on public streets.
- OHVs being used for agricultural purposes.
- OHVs used exclusively on private land.
Are you Required to Title and Register your ATV or UTV in New Mexico?
New Mexico residents are required to both title and register their ATV or UTV with the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division before operating their ATV or UTV on public lands. The registration fee is $53 for two years.
Nonresidents are permitted to ride in New Mexico if they have valid registration in another state demonstrated by a certificate of registration. If a nonresident does not have a certificate of registration, they must obtain a non-resident permit, which is $48 for two years, or $18 for 90 days.
What Requirements are there for Youth ATV/UTV Riders in New Mexico?
Children younger than 6 are not permitted to operate an ATV or UTV on public land in New Mexico. Those 6-18 are only permitted to operate an ATV or UTV meeting the age appropriate size-fit requirements established by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.
Anyone operating an ATV or UTV in New Mexico that is under the age of 18 must complete an approved safety course and carry with them the New Mexico OHV Safety Certificate whenever riding on public lands. The safety course is included by dealers with the purchase of a new ATV, and is offered by the following:
- New Mexico Department of Game and Fish;
- ATV Safety Institute;
- Motorcycle Safety Foundation Dirt Bike School; and
- New Mexico specific online safety courses found here.
Any ATV or UTV operators in New Mexico under the age of 18 must wear a DOT-approved helmet (like our favorite helmet) and goggles or safety glasses (check out this steal on really good quality goggles).
Youth riders may not carry a passenger even if the ATV or UTV is designed to carry a passenger.
Finally, youth ATV or UTV operators in New Mexico must be under the direct supervision of a responsible adult unless they meet one of the two following conditions:
- They are 15 or older and have a valid driver’s license; or
- They are 13 or older and have a valid motorcycle license.
What are the Age-Appropriate Size-Fit Standards in New Mexico?
The age-appropriate size-fit standards in new mexico are restrictions on the size of ATV or UTV/ROV a youth rider may operate.
They start with the following general limitations based upon engine size.
- Riders aged 6-9 may not operate an ATV larger than 110cc or a UTV larger than 200cc.
- Riders aged 10-15 may not operate an ATV larger than 250cc, except as discussed next.
- Riders aged 14-15 with a valid driver’s license may operate an ATV as big as 450cc.
Beyond those general restrictions, the following guidelines relate to the rider’s physical size.
For an ATV:
- Seat Clearance. While standing, there should be 3 inches of clearance between the ATV seat and the rider’s inseam.
- Leg Position. While seated, the riders upper leg, from the knee to the hip, should be roughly horizontal.
- Foot Reach. With the foot in proper position, the toe should be able to operate the foot brake simply and consistently.
- Handlebar Grip Reach. In normal riding position, there should be a slight angle between the upper arm and the forearm.
- Throttle and Engine Stop Switch. With the hands in normal operating position and the handlebars turned completely to the left or right, the rider needs to be able to operate the throttle and engine stop switch.
- Hand-Brake or Clutch Lever Reach.
With the hands in normal operating position and the handlebars turned completely to the left or right, the rider should be able to extend at least one finger beyond the hand-brake or clutch lever.
For a UTV/ROV:
- The operator shall be able to reach and fully operate the pedals with their back flat against the back of their seat and their seatbelt properly fastened.
- The operator shall be able to reach the steering wheel and turn the wheel fully in both directions with arms slightly bent while their back is flat against the back of their seat and their seatbelt properly fastened.
What Restrictions are there for ATV or UTV operation in New Mexico?
There are a number of restrictions on how you operate an ATV or UTV in New Mexico. Most deal with safety, hunting and general responsibility. Below are the notable restrictions:
- You may not operate an ATV or UTV carelessly, recklessly or negligently.
- You may not operate an ATV or UTV while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs.
- You may not use an ATV or UTV to hunt a protected animal.
- You may not use an ATV or UTV to harass livestock in a manners that negatively affects the condition of the livestock.
- You may not ride upon or within an earthen tank or other structure intended to water livestock or wildlife.
- You may not ride in a manner that negatively affects or interferes with persons engaged in agricultural purposes.
- You may not exceed 10 mph within 200 feet of a business, animal shelter, horseback rider, bicyclist, pedestrian, livestock or occupied dwelling.
- You may not use an ATV or UTV to destroy signs, windmills, property, plants or animals.
- You may not create excessive noise.
- You may not operate an ATV or UTV on private land without permission.
What Equipment is Required on an ATV or UTV in New Mexico?
Like most states, New Mexico requires that your ATV/UTV must be equipped with a working muffler and U.S. Forest Service approved spark arrester.
Your ATV or UTV may be tested by the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management, and must produce less than 96 db when measured by the SAE J-1297 stationary sound test.
If you are using an ATV or UTV under conditions of reduced visibility or darkness must be equipped with the following:
- One or more headlight bright enough to see objects at least 150 feet away.
- One or more taillight bright enough to be seen from 200 feet away.
Are you Permitted to Operate ATVs or UTVs on Paved Streets in New Mexico?
In New Mexico, you are not permitted to operate an ATV or UTV on any highway or freeway. You may ride next to a highway to get to or from an OHV area. You may also cross a paved road after coming to a stop and yielding to oncoming traffic.
Operation of ATVs or UTVs is permitted on certain paved roads as designated by local jurisdictions. As such, there are not universal rules for what roads allow ATV and UTV use.
Where operation is permitted on paved roads, the operator must have a valid driver’s license, insurance, any required permits, an OHV safety permit and a paved road use decal or license plate. The operator must also be wearing goggles or other eye protection.
Below is a list of where you can find the rules for street use of ATVs and UTVs in various counties or cities in New Mexico.