Guide to the ATV and UTV Laws in North Dakota

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 North Dakota 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 North Dakota define ATV and UTV?

North Dakota groups ATVs and UTVs into the bigger category of Off-Highway Vehicles or OHV.  “Off-highway vehicle” is defined by North Dakota as “any motorized vehicle not designed for use on a highway and capable of cross-country travel on land, snow, ice, marsh, swampland, or other natural terrain. An off-highway vehicle must be classified into one of the following categories:

  • A Class I off-highway vehicle is a vehicle that does not qualify as road capable, has a seat or a saddle designed to be straddled
    by the operator, and has handlebars for steering control of two wheels.  In other words, a Class I OHV refers to an ATV.
  • A Class II off-highway vehicle is fifty inches [1270.00 millimeters] or less in width, weighs one thousand two hundred pounds [544.31 kilograms] or less, and travels on three or more nonhighway tires; or is sixty-five inches [1651 millimeters] or
    less in width, weighs two thousand pounds [907.19 kilograms] or less, and travels on four or more nonhighway tires.  In other words, a Class II OHV is a UTV.
  • A Class III off-highway vehicle weighs less than eight thousand pounds [3628.74 kilograms]; travels on skis, runners, tracks, or four or more tires; has a seat; has a wheel, handlebars, or t steering for steering control; and is designated for or capable of cross-country on or over land, water, sand, snow, ice, marsh, swampland, or other natural terrain.

If you are curious about what size ATVs and UTVs fit into these classes, we recommend you consult the following guides for greater clarification.

Are you required to register your ATV or UTV in North Dakota?

In North Dakota, you must register any ATV or UTV (referred to as “OHVs”) that is going to be operated on public land.  You can register your ATV or UTV with the North Dakota Department of Transportation at any of their statewide offices. To register your ATV or UTV, you will need the following:

  • A completed application;
  • Owner’s name and address;
  • The make, model and serial number of the ATV or UTV; and
  • The $20 application fee.

If you have registered your ATV or UTV in another state, you must purchase a non-resident public trails and lands access permit for $10 before riding on public land in North Dakota.  This permit is also required for any ATV or UTV that is exempt for registration.

Registration and payment of fees is not required in the following situations:

  • Government-owned ATVs or UTVs.
  • ATVs or UTVs registered in a foreign country and temporarily used in North Dakota.
  • ATVs or UTVs validly licensed in another state and which have not been in North Dakota for more than thirty consecutive days.
  • ATVs or UTVs used exclusively on private lands.
  • ATVs or UTVs used exclusively in organized track racing events.

Upon registration, you will receive a decal and/or license plate which is required to be affixed to the ATV or UTV in a position where the decal or plate is clearly legible for identification.

Are you permitted to ride ATVs or UTVS on public streets in North Dakota?

The general rule is that you are not permitted to operate an ATV or UTV on the roadway, shoulder, or inside bank or slope of any road, street, or highway in North Dakota unless it is in an emergency.

On the other hand, you are generally permitted to operate an ATV or UTV on gravel, dirt, or loose surface roadways.

Also, if you have registered your ATV or UTV, you are permitted to operate it on a paved highway or street that has a posted speed limit of 65 mph or less. The ATV or UTV must be able to attain a speed of 35 mph on a level driving surface. You also must, of course, possess a valid driver’s license.

You may also cross a street or highway under the following conditions:

  • The crossing is made at an angle of approximately ninety degrees to the direction of the highway and at a place where no obstruction prevents a quick and safe crossing;
  • The ATV or UTV is brought to a complete stop before crossing the highway;
  • You yield the right of way to all oncoming traffic which constitutes an immediate hazard; and
  • If you are crossing a divided highway, the crossing is made only at an intersection of the highway with another public street or highway.

Required ATV and UTV Equipment in North Dakota

The following equipment is required for ATVs and UTVs in North Dakota:

  • a working headlamp;
  • a working tail lamp;
  • the manufacturer-installed or equivalent muffler in good working order and connected to the vehicle’s exhaust system;
  • working brakes;
  • If you are carrying a passenger, your ATV or UTV must be equipped with a passenger seat installed or recommended by the manufacturer.

While operating on any roadway, paved or unpaved, you must also have the following equipment:

  • an engine that has at least 350 cc;
  • a mirror;
  • a horn;
  • a speedometer;
  • an odometer;
  • a brake light; and
  • a lighted headlamp.

Youth Regulations

The following youth regulations exist in North Dakota:

  • A rider under 18 may not operate an ATV or UTV without wearing a helmet. For those in need, we think our recommended helmet is the best combination of quality and value out there.
  • A rider under 16 who is not in possession of a valid operator’s license or permit may not operate an ATV or UTV except upon the lands of the individual’s parent or guardian or as a participant in an organized sporting event.
  • A rider under 16 may operate an ATV or UTV only if they have completed an off-highway vehicle safety training course and received the appropriate off-highway vehicle safety certificate.
  • Youth under the age of 12 are not permitted to operate an ATV or UTV in North Dakota.

Other Regulations:

  • It is unlawful to operate an ATV or UTV at a rate of speed greater than reasonable or proper under all the surrounding circumstances.
  • It is unlawful to operate an ATV or UTV in a careless, reckless, or negligent manner so as to endanger the person or property of another or to cause injury or damage to another person or the property of another person.
  • It is unlawful to operate an ATV or UTV while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or a controlled substance.
  • It is unlawful to operate an ATV or UTV without a lighted headlamp and tail lamp except when used by an off-highway vehicle instructor during a certified off-highway vehicle safety training course.
  • It is unlawful to operate an ATV or UTV in any tree nursery or planting in a manner that damages growing stock.
  • It is unlawful to operate an ATV or UTV on any private land where it is posted prohibiting trespassing. The name and address of the person posting the land and the date of posting must appear on each sign in legible characters. The posted signs must be readable from outside the land and be placed conspicuously at a distance of not more than eight hundred eighty yards apart. Land entirely enclosed by a fence or other enclosure is sufficiently posted by posting of these signs at or on all gates through the fence or enclosure.
  • It is unlawful to operate an ATV or UTV without a driver’s license except as permitted in the youth regulations discussed above.

Brent Huntley

Brent Huntley is the owner of ATV Man and is responsible for almost all the material on the website. He also runs and loves to travel and ride ATVs with his family. When he isn't playing, his day job consists of owning Huntley Law.

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