Guide to ATV and UTV Laws in South 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 South Dakota in this article.  ATVs are generally governed by South Dakota motorcycle law, where it is applicable.

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 South Dakota define an ATV or UTV?

ATVs and UTVs are both categorized in South Dakota as “off-road vehicles.”  An off-road vehicle is defined as “any self-propelled, two or more wheeled vehicle designed primarily to be operated on land other than a highway and includes, but is not limited to, all-terrain vehicles, dune buggies and any vehicle whose manufacturer’s statement of origin (MSO)
or manufacturer’s certificate of origin (MCO) states that the vehicle is not for highway use.”

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

While you are not required to register or license your ATV or UTV in South Dakota, you are required to obtain a certificate of title from the Department of Revenue.  You will appreciate this requirement when you go to buy a used ATV, as you can see in this guide!

Youth Requirements for ATV/UTV operation in South Dakota

The following rules and restrictions apply to youth operation of ATVs and/or UTVs in South Dakota.

  • There are no minimum age requirements, and no license is required, for ATV operation in South Dakota.

Are ATVs or UTVs permitted on South Dakota streets?

ATV and UTV use is generally prohibited on the interstate highway system in South Dakota.  ATV and UTV use is likewise generally prohibited on any other public street in South Dakota unless you are just crossing from one side of the road to another.

If you are aged 12 or older, you may operate an ATV or UTV in a highway ditch if you remain as close as possible to the outer edge of the highway right-of-way. Note, this does not include a ditch along the interstate highway system.  It also does not apply on any lands owned, leased, or controlled by the Department of Game, Fish and Parks (or along a designated snowmobile trail or road) unless it is within a designated off-road vehicle area or designated trail.

You also will want to check county ordinances as well to be safe because any board of county commissioners can alter the law to prohibit the operation of an ATV or UTV in any ditch along a street or highway.

You can register your ATV as a motorcycle to operate it on the street

If your ATV has four or more wheels and has a combustion engine having a piston or rotor displacement of two hundred cubic centimeters (cc) or more, you may license it as a motorcycle to be used on a public highway.  You must ensure your ATV meets the following requirements and abide by the following operating rules if you register your ATV as a motorcycle.

  • Your ATV must be equipped with at least one and not more than two headlamps.
  • Your ATV must be equipped with at least one tail lamp, which when lighted shall emit a red light plainly visible from a distance of five hundred feet to the rear.
  • Your ATV’s registration plate must be lit by either the rear lamps or a separate lamp so as to illuminate with a white light the rear registration plate and render it clearly legible from a distance of fifty feet to the rear.
  • Your ATV must carry at the rear, either as a part of the rear lamp or separately, a red reflector located at the extreme rear of the vehicle at a height not to exceed sixty inches above the ground upon which the vehicle stands, which reflector is so designed and maintained as to be visible at night from all distances within three hundred feet to fifty feet
  • Your ATV must be equipped with operable brakes.
  • Your ATV must be equipped with a rearview mirror that will reflect to the driver a view of the highway for a distance of at least two hundred feet to the rear.
  • Your ATV must be equipped with a horn in good working order capable of emitting sound audible under normal conditions from a distance of at least two hundred feet.
  • Your ATV must be equipped with directional turn signals.
  • Your ATV must be equipped with an exhaust system and a muffler, both in good working condition and in constant operation to prevent excessive or unusual noise.
  • Any operator or passenger under the age of 18 is required to wear a helmet (get yourself this great helmet if you need one!).
  • Any operator of an ATV must wear eye protection if the ATV doesn’t have a windshield.  The goggles may not be tinted if worn at a time where lights are illuminated.  These goggles from Oakley have truly been a lifesaver from serious damage in an accident, and they come at a great price.
  • Any passenger must be sitting in a regular and permanent seat, and must not interfere with the control of the ATV or the view of the operator.
  • The operator of an ATV must be facing forward with at least one hand on the handlebars at all times.
  • The operator of an ATV may not be carrying anything in his or her hands that prevent both hands from being on the handlebars.

Rules for riding ATVs and UTVs in state parks in South Dakota

The following rules and regulations apply to the operation of ATVs and UTVs in state parks.

  • Your ATV or UTV must be licensed.  Note that non-resident ATVs may be temporarily licensed by contacting the Department of Revenue and Regulation at 605-773-3541.
  • A Park entrance license is required.
  • You must be able to provide proof of insurance coverage.
  • Your ATV must be equipped with a horn, headlight, brake light and rear view mirror.
  • The operator of an ATV or UTV must be 14 years of age or older and possess a valid driver’s license.
  • ATVs and UTVs may only be operated on designated park roads.
  • You cannot ride on paved or unpaved trails or shorelines.
  • The operator must wear eye protection.  Get these awesome goggles if you need eye protection.
  • Any operators or passengers under 18 must wear a helmet.  Check out our favorite helmet.
  • The operator must obey all traffic regulations.
  • ATVs under 200cc may not be operated.
  • Three-wheel ATVs may not be operated.

Other Popular riding areas in South Dakota

As one might expect, South Dakota has quite a bit of good riding areas.  Some of the most popular are included below.

  • Black Hills National Forest.  This National Forest has over 600 miles of ATV and UTV trails.  Some of the trails do have width restrictions so you should make yourself aware of those before heading out.  You can find up-to-date maps here.  You should also familiarize yourself with rules for riding on federal lands.
  • Buffalo Gap National Grasslands. The northern edge of the grasslands, south of Farmingdale have some good trails for experienced riders.  Note, the trails become a mess of wet clay after rain.
  • Oahe Downstream Recreation Area.  This area offers almost 400 acres of hilly grassland, river bluff and vegetated shale slopes for ATV and UTV riding.  There are no designated trails, but the open riding areas have marked boundaries.
  • Revheim Bay Recreation Area.  This area doesn’t offer a lot of riding area, but it does have a 1.1-mile long riding track.

Can you carry a firearm on an ATV or UTV?

In general, you may not operate or ride upon an ATV or UTV with a firearm unless the firearm is unloaded and enclosed within a carrying case. You may carry a firearm on an ATV or UTV without these restrictions if you are carrying a pistol and possess a permit to carry a concealed pistol. You may also carry an appropriate firearm while hunting from an ATV or UTV if you carry a permit to do so.

Exemptions from the Regulations

ATVs and UTVS used for farming and ranching are excluded from the ATV and UTV regulations of South Dakota where they are used along a highway ditch or crossing a highway to get to and from a field or pasture or when they are being used in the course of farm or ranch labor.

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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