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 Rhode Island 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.
Is an ATV or UTV classified as a recreational vehicle in Rhode Island?
In Rhode Island, an ATV or UTV is defined and regulated as a “recreational vehicle.” Therefore, whenever you come across a reference to recreational vehicles in Rhode Island, that includes ATVs and UTVs.
Are you required to title and register an ATV or UTV in Rhode Island?
If you plan to use an ATV or UTV in Rhode Island, it must be registered with the Director of Natural Resources. The annual fee to register your ATV or UTV is $10. When you apply for registration, you must have the following information:
- Make of vehicle;
- Year built;
- Frame or body number;
- Type of vehicle;
- Engine make;
- Engine serial number;
- Maximum capacity of vehicle;
- Horsepower or cc of engine;
- Color of vehicle;
- Name, address and birthdate of owner; and
- From whom the vehicle was acquired.
To register your ATV or UTV in Rhode Island, it must first be issued a title from the division of motor vehicles. If you do not have such a title, you can apply for a certificate of title with the division of motor vehicles.
ATVs and UTVS used by state or federal government agencies will be issued a registration number without payment.
Special permits may be obtained from the Director of Environmental Management for out-of-state ATVs and UTVs that are to be operated in Rhode Island for less than 30 days in connection with an organized group outing, trail ride, race, rally or other promotional event.
Within 15 days after the transfer of ownership (other than a security interest), destruction or abandonment of your ATV or UTV or change of address, you are required to provide written notice of the same to the Director of Environmental Management.
Where are you permitted to operate your ATV or UTV in Rhode Island?
Rhode Island law prohibits you from riding on property owned by another person unless you have the owner’s written consent. If you are caught riding on private property without permission, you could face a fine of up to $100.
Rhode Island specifically prohibits the operation of ATVs and UTVs in the area known as the Blackstone Valley Flood Plains or Marshes.
According to Regulation 8.13 from the Department of Environmental Management, ATV or UTV operation is permitted only in the following public lands on designated trails. However, please be advised we consulted a law enforcement officer with the Department of Environmental Management who informed us there are no (as of January 2021) designated trails for ATV or UTV use on any public lands in Rhode Island, and that use is only permitted on private property with permission. This can be confusing as the statute that permits use on designated trails also pertains to snow mobiles and there are designated snow mobile trails. As such, we recommend contacting the Department of Environmental Management if you think a trail has been designated open for ATV or UTV use.
- Bristol County;
- Colt State Park;
- Kent County;
- Beach Pond State Park;
- Big River Reservoir Acquisition Area;
- Wickaboxet Management Area;
- Providence County;
- Black Hut Management Area north of Spring Lake Rd.;
- Buck Hill Management Area;
- Durfee Hill Management Area excluding the Manfred Young Section;
- George Washington Management Area;
- Lincoln Woods State Park;
- Pulaski State Park;
- Snake Den State Park;
- Diamond Hill State Park between Labor Day and skiing season;
- Washington County;
- Arcadia Management Area;
- Arcadia State Park;
- Burlingame Management Area;
- Carolina Management Area north of Pine Hill Rd.;
- Ninigret Conservation Area on beach front and sand road from Labor Day to the day before Memorial Day;
- Rockville Management Area;
- Roger Wheeler Memoral State Beach parking lot from the Saturday after Labor Day to the day before Memorial Day; and
- Scarborough State Beach parking lot from the Saturday after Labor Day to the day before memorial day.
Note, it is not permissible to operate an ATV or UTV in any Management Area during the hunting hours of the shot-gun deer seasons.
Are you permitted to operate an ATV or UTV on paved roads in Rhode Island?
Generally, you may not operate an ATV or UTV on paved roads in Rhode Island, including within the right-of-way, on the road shoulder, or on the inside bank or slope of any highway
Crossing a public street:
You may cross a public street or highway on an ATV or UTV under the following circumstances:
- you cross at an angle of approximately 90 degrees to the direction of the street or highway;
- you cross at a location where no obstruction prevents a quick and safe crossing;
- you come to a complete stop before crossing;
- you yield to all other traffic;
- if you are crossing a divided highway, you cross only where it intersects with another street or highway;
- if you cross at night or during reduced visibility, you have your headlights and rear lights illuminated; and
- you are at least 18 years of age or have a valid motor vehicle operator’s license.
Required ATV and UTV Equipment in Rhode Island
The following equipment is required to ride an ATV or UTV in Rhode Island.
- Your ATV or UTV must be equipped with a headlight that is white or amber in color and of sufficient intensity to reveal a person 100 feet ahead if the ATV or UTV is used to cross a public street or between sunset and sunrise.
- Your ATV or UTV must be equipped with a tail lamp if the ATV or UTV is used to cross a public street or between sunset and sunrise.
- Your ATV or UTV must be equipped 16 square inches of reflectorized material on each side of the vehicle forward of the handlebars, in such a manner as to reflect light directed upon it from either side.
- Your ATV or UTV must be equipped with a muffler that is in good working condition.
- Your ATV or UTV must be equipped with at least one hand or foot brake capable of controlling and stopping your ATV or UTV within a straight 12-foot wide path.
- If you cross a street on an ATV or UTV, it must be equipped with a red reflector on the rear of the vehicle of such size to visible at night from 500 feet to 50 feet when directly in front of the upper beams of headlights. This requirement is waved if the tail light(s) is reflectorized.
- You are required to wear a securely fastened helmet and face guard while operating an ATV or UTV in Rhode Island. Do yourself a favor if you don’t have one and pick up this great helmet from O’Neal that is our personal favorite.
Youth ATV/UTV regulations in Rhode Island
The following regulations apply to youth operating ATVs or UTVs in Rhode Island:
- No person under the age of 12 may operate an ATV or UTV on public land in Rhode Island;
- Any person under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult when riding on public land in Rhode Island, and the adult must accept liability for any personal injury or porperty damage resulting from such operation.
What to do if you are in an ATV/UTV accident in Rhode Island?
If you are involved in an accident while operating an ATV or UTV in Rhode Island, you must take the following actions:
- stop immediately;
- provide identification certificate if required to have one;
- provide, in writing, your name, address and identification number of vehicle to any person injured in the accident or the owner of any property damaged; and
- if such person cannot be identified, you must report it to the nearest police officer within 24 hours.
- if the accident causes the death or incapacitation, for more than 72 hours, of a person, or property damage in excess of $100, you must report the accident to the Department of Environmental Management and local police department on the form which may be obtained at any police department. The form shall contain the following information:
- number of vehicles involved;
- locality where accident occurred;
- name, address, age and ATV/UTV operating experience;
- weather conditions at the time of the accident;
- name and address of the operator(s) of other vehicle(s) involved;
- name and address of owners of property involved;
- nature and extent of injuries;
- description of damage to property and estimated cost of repairs;
- description of accident;
- make, year and type of vehicle;
- name and address of any known witnesses;
- type of accident;
- registration numbers of involved vehicles; and
- license number, if you have one.
Other ATV and UTV regulations in Rhode Island
- It is prohibited to operate an ATV or UTV in Rhode Island at a speed that is not reasonable or proper for the surrounding circumstances.
- It is prohibited to operate an ATV or UTV in Rhode Island in a careless, negligent, or reckless manner so as to endanger or cause injury or damage to another person or property.
- It is prohibited to operate an ATV or UTV in Rhode Island under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- It is prohibited to operate an ATV or UTV in a tree nursery or planting in a manner that damages growing stock.
- It is prohibited to operate an ATV or UTV of another without the written permission of its owner.
- It is prohibited to operate an ATV or UTV while carrying a firearm, rifle or shotgun on your peson or vehicle unless such firearm, rifle or shotgun is unloaded and stored in an enclosed case.
- It is prohibited to tow a sled or trailer behind an ATV or UTV by any means other than a standard solid hitch.
- It is prohibited to operate an ATV or UTV in such a manner so as to harass, driver or pursue any wildlife.