Motorists and ATV/UTV riders urged to share the road safely

Release date: May 16, 2019

Stay alert as the weather warms and riding conditions improve

Spring and summer in Wisconsin are great times to take the family on a road trip or hop on an all-terrain or utility-terrain vehicle (ATV/UTV) for some outdoor fun. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) and Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are asking everyone – no matter what they're operating – to stay attentive, patient and safe.

ATV/UTV registration grew 19 percent over the past five years, totaling 396,611 at the end of 2018. Motorists and riders could be sharing the road more frequently in some areas. State law allows municipalities to designate their roadways as ATV/UTV routes. In addition, a municipality may authorize the operation of ATVs/UTVs on any highway within its territorial boundary that has a speed limit of 35 mph or less.

“ATVs, UTVs, cars and trucks offer different driving experiences, but one factor holds consistently true – no matter what you drive, even a momentary distraction can create a tragedy,” said WisDOT Secretary-Designee Craig Thompson. “It’s important that we all look out for one another.”

WisDOT published a website for riders and local officials who are interested in learning more about the 2017 law changes and requirements to establish ATV routes within their jurisdiction. The website also contains a downloadable flier for anyone who’d like to encourage motorists and riders to share the road. The DNR publishes additional resources to assist ATV and UTV riders with safety courses, vehicle registration and knowledge of the law.

“Whether you’re behind the wheel or behind a set of handlebars – think safety,” said DNR Recreation Safety and Outdoor Skills Captain April Dombrowski. “ATV/UTV riding is among our state’s favorite recreational activities in the summer months. Whether you are riding for work or for fun, stay safe and be responsible.” 

Safety tips for motorists:

  • Watch for riders. Always eliminate distractions. Be patient and stay focused.
  • When you approach an ATV/UTV on the road, slow down and be patient for a safe opportunity to pass.
  • As ATV/UTVs are much wider than bicycle or motorcycle, motorists are likely to require space from the opposing travel lane while passing.
  • Keep an eye out for ATV route signs and remember the law allows postings at territorial boundaries so motorists may not see additional signage along individual roads.

Safety tips for ATV/UTV riders:

  • Stick to authorized areas. Most highways and roads statewide remain off limits. Check for ATV/UTV route signs or with local authorities to see if certain highways and roads are legally open.
  • Travel at an appropriate speed and remain aware of your surroundings.
  • Consider wearing high-visibility gear. As some drivers might not expect to be sharing the road with an ATV/UTV, it can help to be seen from afar.
  • Riders are required to operate headlight(s) when on or around roadways.
  • Helmets and protective gear save lives and are highly encouraged for everyone, but also are a legal obligation for riders and passengers under 18 with limited exceptions. Get the facts here.
  • All UTV riders and passengers must have seatbelts fastened at all times.
  • It is illegal for passengers to sit anywhere not specifically designed or intended for passenger use. 
  • Never consume alcohol or drugs before or during ATV/UTV operation.

For more information, contact:

WisDOT Office of Public Affairs
(608) 266-3581, opa.exec@dot.wi.gov

Joanne Haas, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
(608) 209-8147, Joanne.Haas@Wisconsin.gov