New York State Raises ATV Riding Supervision Age to 18

Ross Ballot
by Ross Ballot
Photo Credit: New York State

New York State recently amended its all-terrain-vehicle (ATV) regulations, making this the recent second law change the state has implemented over the last few years. This change is a big one, with the state raising the minimum ATV riding age to 14 and the minimum age for a supervisor to 18, up from 16. By the numbers it isn’t a huge jump, but it does raise the supervisor age from driver’s license age to voting age, which in all fairness can represent a fair difference in maturity and life experience. Still, it seems a bit arbitrary, and this is all official as per the regulatory website, which sets these ages in stone.

Photo Credit: Nomad_Soul /

Part of this change entails the legal change involving safety certificates, which is now gone in favor of age being the determining factor. And the reason behind all of this is a massive spike in injuries and deaths, but the data is flawed. Ride Apart recently reported and commented on the matter, noting that it “The bill’s writers also don’t specify hard numbers outside of those 24,000 injuries, though they specifically call out deaths and traumatic brain injuries. Any are lamentable, but context matters when you’re making laws and regulations.”

From personal experience, there is a public image of ATV riding that holds it as dangerous to all those who partake. However, the stories that make the news are unfortunately usually those of injuries and deaths in which the rider was not wearing a helmet and/or alcohol was involved. Age, maturity, and circumstances may not be directly related, but there is definitely something of merit here. Unfortunately, it comes at the expense of those who should be allowed to experience and enjoy ATV riding but will now have to jump through hoops to do so.

Safety regulations are undeniably beneficial, proven to mitigate accidents, injuries, and potential fatalities across various activities and industries. However, discerning between well-informed safety regulations and misguided ones is crucial, and the recent legislation in New York falls into the latter category, set to become law this month.

In October, the state revised legislation concerning the use of ATVs by minors, raising the age at which children and young adults can legally operate them. Prior to the revision, minors could ride ATVs from the age of 10, with those 16 and older supervising, provided they held a safety certificate. The revised law now mandates that individuals must be 14 years old to operate an ATV, and only those 18 and older can supervise. While the age adjustment is not substantial, it raises concerns due to what appears to be misguided reasoning behind the change.

Photo Credit: Tsuguliev /

As someone who grew up riding in and learned to do so in the state of New York, this is a mixed bag. One side of the equation is that which only wants the best and safest learning conditions for new and “under-age” riders. I sympathize and empathize with those only looking out for the health and safety of their children. The flip side of me says this is only raising the barrier to entry for the segment, making it harder for people to enjoy and experience the joy that is ATV riding.

This is, sadly, a matter of “separating the art from the artist.” Yes, four-wheeling does have its dangers, but that doesn’t mean everyone looking to partake should be at the mercy of one broad, sweeping legal change. Better education on rider safety starting at an even younger age would go a long way to mitigate the reasons why this law came to be in the first place.

Ross Ballot
Ross Ballot

Ross hosts The Off the Road Again Podcast. He has been in the off-road world since he was a kid riding in the back of his dad’s YJ Wrangler. He works in marketing by day and in his free time contributes to Hooniverse, AutoGuide, and, and in the past has contributed to UTV Driver, ATV Rider, and Everyday Driver. Ross drives a 2018 Lexus GX460 that is an ongoing build project featured on multiple websites and the podcast and spends his free time working on and riding ATVs.

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