State of California
*** NOTICE ***
This page includes a brief summary of provincial/state laws regulating ATV / Off-highway vehicle use current to April 2012. It is not intended as an absolute reference as laws are subject to change without notice and many potential prohibited acts may be covered by other legislation or statutes. It is recommended that you consult with the latest version of state statutes or provincial legislation.
General prohibited acts that may not be covered by specific OHV legislation include trespassing on private property, unlawful use of OHV on public highways, reckless use of off-highway vehicles, operation of off-highway vehicles while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, damage to public or private property or damage to natural habitats or protected areas which are all unlawful in every province and state.
Preamble
ATV's and other off-highway vehicles are regulated in the State of California under the Public Resources Code - Off-Highway Vehicles Subdivision and the California Vehicle Code. These statutes cover use of off-highway vehicles on public and private lands.

For more information on California ATV/OHV regulations, please download a copy of the California OHV Act.

Summary of legislation regulating ATV use
Titling required
All residents of California are required to title their off-highway vehicle. Non-residents are exempt provided the duration of operation in California is temporary.



Registration required
All residents of California are required to possess valid OHV registration for operation on public lands. A valid numbering decal is required to be displayed on the OHV at all times.

Non-residents are required to possess valid out of state registration from their home state or province for operation on public lands. Valid out of state registration decals are required to be displayed at all times. In the case where the home state or province does not require registration or an operating permit, or where such registration does not include an identifying decal, the non-resident is required to purchase a California non-resident OHV permit.

Helmets required
All operators riding on public lands and all riders are required to wear DOT approved helmets at all times.



Restrictions on underage operators
No one under 18 is to operate an ATV on public land unless they are in possession of a California ATV safety certificate or with an adult who possesses a California ATV safety certificate.

No one under 14 may operate an ATV on public land unless they are accompanied and directly supervised by a parent/guardian, or an adult who is authorized by the parent/guardian.
No one under 14 may operate an ATV on public land unless they or the adult directly supervising them possesses a California ATV safety certificate.




Restrictions on carrying passengers
No passengers are allowed at any time while on public lands, except one passenger may be carried if the ATV is designed for a passenger.



Use on public roadways prohibited
Use of off-highway vehicles on public roadways and highways is prohibited. An exception is permitted which allows an operator to cross public roadways.



Operation while under the influence prohibited
It is unlawful to operate an off-highway vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicants.



Operation on restricted lands
It is unlawful to operate an off-highway vehicle on lands that are closed or restrict or prohibit access to that vehicle.

It is unlawful to operate an off-highway vehicle on lands designated as federal or state protected wilderness areas.
Other prohibited acts
It is unlawful to operate an off-highway vehicle where the operator is unable to reach all the controls necessary to safely operate the vehicle.

It is unlawful to operate an off-highway vehicle at a speed that is greater than reasonable for the conditions or where a speed endangers the welfare of the operator or others.
It is unlawful to operate an off-highway vehicle at a speed greater than 15 miles per hour while within 50 feet of any campground, campsite, or concentration of people or animals

It is unlawful for any person to drive any off-highway motor vehicle with a willful and wanton disregard for the safety of other persons or property.

Safety equipment required
All off-highway vehicle operating from one half hour after sunrise to one half hour before sunrise are required to have adequate working headlights and taillights.



Muffler required
All off-highway vehicles operated in the state of California require adequate muffler systems equipped with the U.S. Forestry Service approved spark arrestor.




Please visit our U.S. land use forums for discussions regarding land use and legal issues.




OHV Registration / Permit
All residents of California are required to register their off-highway vehicle and display valid registration decals on the vehicle. Registration can be obtained from the California Department of Motor Vehicles

Non-residents are required to possess valid registration/permit from their home state as well as displaying a valid registration decal on the vehicle or purchase a California Non-Resident OHV Permit. The permits can be purchased online or are available from an non-resident OHV permit vendor, or California Parks Ranger.
For More Information
This page represents a general summary of applicable state laws which apply to the operation of an off-highway vehicle. Laws are subject to change and laws other than specific off-highway vehicle related laws may be in place which may directly or indirectly apply to the operation of a off-highway vehicle in certain circumstances. Please consult with your state statutes if you have any questions.

For more information on California ATV/OHV regulations, please download a copy of the California OHV Act.