ATV laws similar to motorcycle laws in North Carolina

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A six-minute YouTube video of a large group of people riding dirt bikes and ATVs on busy roads in Charlotte on a Sunday afternoon, some of them “popping wheelies,” caught the attention of WCNC in November. The man who shot the video told the CBS station that traffic behind the group was forced to significantly slow down due to the group’s rate of speed. When Trooper Ray Pierce of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol was shown the video, he said his “Initial reaction was disbelief,” said Pierce. “To see that large amount of ATVs and motorcycles or dirt bikes on a public highway or state-maintained road is definitely a shock.”


Shock apart, he said that what the riders in the video were doing was illegal, for various reasons:

  • A majority of the visible bikes were untagged, and likely unregistered;
  • They lacked turn signals, brake lights and rearview mirrors, all safety equipment required by North Carolina law; and
  • They needed to be insured before they are allowed on the streets.

“They were definitely riding without due regard for the safety of themselves and the motoring public,” Pierce told WCNC.

In North Carolina, the laws governing ATVs are similar to motorcycle laws. They must be registered, tagged, and insured. Moreover, according to,

  • Drivers must be wearing a helmet and protective glasses.
  • They must have an ATV safety certificate (depending on age).
  • They cannot operate ATVs on any public roads or highways (unless simply to cross the road).
  • No person shall operate an all-terrain vehicle in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger or cause injury or damage to any person or property. (This likely covers wheelies and obstructing traffic.)


North Carolina offers many safe venues, such as campsites with amenities, for enjoying ATV sports. For example, the Cape Fear ATV and MX Park boasts “a motocross track, a drag strip, deep mud bogs, shallow ponds, sand pits, plus about 30 miles of marked wood trails” in addition to campsites with restrooms, hot showers, food concessions, and occasional live music. That’s just one example—not bad for roughing it! Aren’t parks like that more fun than disrupting traffic on Charlotte’s streets?


Richard Manger, principal of Manger Law Firm, has extensive experience in litigation and settlements, with a focus on personal injury and workers’ compensation law. We are proud of the strong relationships of loyalty and trust we develop with our clients. We go above and beyond to achieve the best possible outcome in your case. You can contact Richard Manger via email at, or by calling (336) 882-2000.

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