Have you ever wondered if ATVs are street legal in Chicago? Well, you shouldn’t be looking anywhere further. Here you will find all the answers you need.
Many states have different rules and regulations that govern the use of ATVs and other OHVs, but they all leave an option for local municipalities to further regulate this matter.
In the state of Illinois ATVs are not allowed to be used on streets, highways, and any other roads, except for crossing them, according to state laws. But municipalities can designate roads for ATVs if the posted speed limit on them is 35mph or less. Unfortunately, Chicago is not one such town or city, and recreational use of ATVs is illegal.
With that in mind, let’s move on further details of can you ride an ATV at all in Chicago.
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Are ATVs Street legal in Chicago?
The Illinois state laws forbid the use of ATVs and all other off-high-way vehicles on practically all streets and roads in the state. And this includes the area of Chicago.
But the law leaves some exceptions to this rule.
The first exception is that public roads can be used by ATVs for crossing unless they are toll roads, highways that are part of the interstate road system, or controlled-access highways.
Second are the roads and highways in the jurisdiction of local municipalities, where local government can designate roads that can be used by ATVs and other similar vehicles.
But local governments are allowed to designate only streets and roads that have posted a speed limit of 35mph.
The third exception is if the ATV is used for farming purposes when it is allowed to be used only on county and township roadways.
Where the use of ATVs is explicitly allowed, there are some more conditions imposed before they can be driven.
ATVs must have brakes, mirrors, red reflective devices both front and back, a slow-moving vehicle emblem, a headlight strong enough to be seen from 500 feet away, rear lights visible from 100 feet away, brake lights, turn signals, and OHV Public Access Decal or OHV Usage Stamp.
Also, the person operating the ATV must have a proper driver’s license and be 16 years of age or older.
Because at the moment, the city of Chicago doesn’t have streets designated for ATV use, for all intents and purposes they are illegal on public streets.
Can I ride an ATV on public lands in Chicago?
Per state law, ATVs are banned from all parks and nature preserves in the state of Illinois. And local municipalities are not allowed to institute ordinance that is contrary to the law.
In effect, it means that in Chicago ATVs are not allowed on any public land or road.
Another problem is that there aren’t all that many non-urban areas in Chicago that could be designated for use by ATVs.
So, you shouldn’t expect the situation to change in the future.
Can I ride an ATV on private lands in Chicago?
Yes, you can ride an ATV on private property in Chicago, for both recreational and agricultural purposes.
To use it on private property, you have to be an owner or have a lease on it or have written or verbal permission from the owner or a leaseholder.
In case you wandered off into someone else’s private property, you have an obligation to leave it by the shortest possible route.
Most of the regulations that apply to the use of ATVs on public land, do not apply on private lands. But still, there are some rules you should follow.
You are not allowed to ride an ATV closer than 100 feet from any other private home between midnight and 6 AM at any speed higher than the bare minimum required to maintain the forward movement.
The exception to this is homes you own or lease and property where you have explicit permission from the owner or the leaseholder.
Do I have to register or title an ATV in Chicago?
According to the letter of the law, you would have to title and register your ATV to be able to use it on public roads and public lands designated for the use of such vehicles.
Registration is in the form of the OHV Public Access Decal, which can be acquired from the Department of Natural Resources.
It costs $30 for titled ATVs and $50 for the out-of-state or those without the title. They are valid for three years.
In case the ATV is used only on private property, it doesn’t need to be registered or titled.
Do I need a driver’s license to operate an ATV in Chicago?
The law prescribes that an ATV can be operated on public roads and public lands only if the rider has at least 16 years of age and has a driver’s license.
But, to operate an ATV on private properties, there is no need to have a driver’s license, and also there is no minimum age requirement.
Are helmets mandatory in Chicago?
No, helmets are not required to be able to ride an ATV on public streets and public lands in Chicago.
In the state of Illinois ATVs and other off-highway vehicles are not allowed on public streets and highways, except for the purpose of crossing them.
The law leaves an option for local governments to designate streets and roads where they are allowed.
Unfortunately, the city of Chicago has not used this option, and ATVs are not allowed on its public streets. But their use is allowed on private properties with almost no restrictions.
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