What are the age and other requirements for all terrain vehicle (ATV) operation?

Age Requirements

  • Under the age of 12: no operation, unless supervised by an adult for agricultural purposes only or unless ATV is being operated on land owned or leased by that person’s parents or sibling’s family.
  • No person under 12 may operate an ATV on a roadway for agricultural use under any circumstances.
  • Any person born on or after January 1, 1988 must possess a valid ATV Safety Certificate from Wisconsin or another state or Canada (even if they are over 16 with a driver’s license or an adult) in order to operate an ATV on public trails, routes, lands or frozen waters (all areas open to the public).
  • No owner or person having control of an ATV may permit the operation of the ATV by any person that is incapable of or prohibited from operating an ATV.
  • No ATV Safety Certificate is available for children under age 12.
  • Once a person turns 12 years old, they need an ATV Safety Certificate to operate anywhere other than property owned or leased by that person’s parents or sibling’s family.

Under Age 12 Exceptions for ATV Use

  • Note: ATV use is only allowed on signed routes or trails, frozen lakes/rivers or on private property with permission of the landowner. If no marked ATV trail is in the ditch, it is illegal to operate an ATV in a roadside ditch.
  • A child under age 12 may operate a small ATV only on designated ATV trails only (not routes) and only while accompanied by a parent (not brother, aunt or a friend, etc.). A small ATV means it has an engine of no more than 90 cubic centimeters. A small ATV must be registered.
  • A person under 12 may not operate any ATV on a roadway or route under any circumstances.

Helmet Requirements

Motorcycle-type (Snell or Department of Transportation approved). Under 18 operator and passengers must wear a helmet unless any of the following applies:

  • The person is traveling for the purposes of hunting or fishing and is at least 12.
  • The ATV is being operated for agricultural purposes.
  • The ATV is being operated on land owned or leased by that person’s immediate family.

Registration Requirements

  • No person may operate and no owner may give permission for the operation of an ATV unless the ATV has valid registration displayed or the operator produces an agent validated registration receipt from the DNR or dealer.
  • Public use registration is valid for 2 years expiring on June 30th.
  • Private use registration is valid until ownership of the ATV changes, but is only for those ATVs which are used for agricultural purposes or used on the owner’s private property.
  • A Wisconsin Non-Resident ATV Trail Pass is required on out-of-state ATVs registered in another state. If another state does not have registrations (i.e. Illinois), the ATV must be registered in Wisconsin. (Non-Residents may operate their ATVs in the state for up to 15 days without obtaining Wisconsin registration ((they still need a Non-Resident Trail Pass)) even though the ATV is not registered in the non-resident’s home state).

Operation on Highways

No person may operate an ATV on a highway (including the entire right-of-way) except in the following situations:

  • To cross a roadway only after stopping and yielding the right-of-way to other vehicles and pedestrians. Stopping is required with or without the presence of a stop sign.
  • To cross a bridge, culvert or railroad right-of-way only after stopping and yielding.
  • On roadways which are designated as ATV routes.
  • On roadways if the ATV is an implement of husbandry (being used as a tractor), used exclusively for agricultural purposes and is registered for private use. The operator must be 12 years or older.
  • Using an ATV to travel from farm to farm or from home to work at a farm, when the ATV isn’t currently being used to carry or pull a load is illegal.

Miscellaneous Requirements

  • No person may operate an ATV on private property without consent from the owner or lessee.
  • No person may have in possession on an ATV a firearm or bow unless unloaded and enclosed in a carrying case. A bow may be carried without a case if it is unstrung.
  • It is illegal for a person to sell, rent or operate an ATV that emits noise in excess of 96 decibels.
  • ATV speed is restricted to 10 miles per hour or less when within 150 feet of a dwelling.
  • No person may operate an ATV within 100 feet of a person not on an ATV/motor vehicle or within 100 feet of a fishing shanty at a speed exceeding 10 miles per hour.
  • No person may operate an ATV while under the influence of an intoxicant or controlled substance or BAC of 0.08% or higher. The intoxicated operation law is applicable on highways and upon all premises held out to the public for use of ATVs, whether private or public.

Show All Answers

1. Can I pay for a citation online?
2. How do I register my deer, or claim deer involved in an accident?
3. How do I get my car out of impound?
4. How do I make a compliment or file a complaint about a Sheriff's Office employee?
5. How do I obtain a State of WI record check on someone?
6. What are the driving directions to the Sheriff's Office/jail?
7. What are the age and other requirements for all terrain vehicle (ATV) operation?
8. What are the age and other requirements to operate a snowmobile?
9. What is the mailing address of the Sheriff's Office?
10. Why can't I have the supplemental reports along with the accident report?
11. I can't find the answer to my question. How can I submit a question to the Sheriff's Office?