In greater Minnesota, it is not uncommon to see people operating ATVs on trails, fields, ditches, and roads.  Because the laws governing ATV use in Minnesota are so complex and confusing, it is a safe bet that many of these drivers are unaware that they are violating the law.  Part of this confusion stems from the classification process of ATVs4, as well as the differing rules that apply to each classification.  It is the responsibility of every owner and operator however, to know these rules and follow them.  Failure to do so may result in criminal and civil liability, as well as exposing both the driver and riders to potential injury or death.

The rules and regulations are to numerous to discuss in this short blog.  A more thorough outline of the rules and regulations applicable to ATV’s can be found at


For the full Minnesota law regarding where ATV operators can drive their ATV, operators should read and become familiar with Minnesota Statute § 84.928.  Generally, however, you may not operate an ATV in the following places:

  • on the inside slope, shoulder, and roadway of state and country roads;

  • on the median of a four lane highway;

  • within the right of way of any interstate highway or freeway;

  • on the right of way between opposing lanes of traffic;

  • on grant-in-aid snowmobile trails; on designated non-motorized trails;

  • at airports;

  • below the ordinary high-water level of unfrozen public waters (lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands);

  • on frozen waters where you do not have legal access;

  • in areas prohibited by local ordinances;

  • in a tree or nursery planting area;

  • on agricultural land without permission; and

  • in most state parks.

Cities, towns, counties, and road authorities may have other regulations regarding ATVs, and may allow or disallow operation in certain areas.  Checking with the specific governmental unit for their regulations regarding operation is necessary.


Minnesota law also requires operators to adhere to certain practices when crossing public roads.  ATV operators must:

  • come to a complete stop at the road and look both ways;

  • yield to all traffic;

  • cross only at 90 degree angles;

  • cross a divided road at an intersection only; and

  • if the crossing is being made between 90 minutes after sunset to 30 minutes before sunrise or if visibility is reduced, the ATV must have both front and rear lights on.


Minnesota law also puts certain safety requirements on the operators of ATVs.  Operators may not operate an ATV:

  • at a rate of speed greater than reasonable or proper under the surrounding circumstances; in a careless, reckless, or negligent manner so as to endanger or to cause injury or damage to the person or property of another;

  • without a headlight and taillight lighted at all times if the vehicle is equipped with headlights and taillights;

  • without a functioning stoplight if so equipped;

  • without a brake operational by either hand or foot;

  • subject to certain exceptions, with more than one person on the vehicle; and

  • at a speed of more than ten miles per hour on the frozen surface of public waters and within 100 feet of a person not on an ATV or within 100 feet of a ice fishing house.

If you are an operator of an ATV, taking the time to read and understand your legal obligations can help keep yourself and others around you safe.  Finally, although not required for everyone, you should always wear a helmet.  If you or someone you know have been injured in an ATV accident, contact one of the experienced attorneys at Nelson Personal Injury today for a free consultation.