State of California Off Highway Vehicle Laws

This is only a partial list of regulations pertaining to OHV's. For a complete listing, see Division 16.5 of the California Vehicle Code (C.V.C.).

OHVS ON ROADWAYS. No person shall operate or drive an off-highway vehicle on a roadway, except to cross at an angle of approximately 90 degrees and in a quick and safe manner. (38025a C.V.C.)

HELMET USAGE. All persons, regardless of age, who operate or ride all terrain vehicles (ATV's) on public lands in California must wear an approved safety helmet. (38505 C.V.C.)

PARENTAL SUPERVISION. No person under the age of 14 shall operate an all-terrain vehicle unless that person satisfies the requirements of 38503 C.V.C. (safety certification) and in addition, is accompanied by and under the direct supervision of a parent or guardian. (38504 C.V.C.). Neither a parent or guardian of a child who is under 14 years of age, nor an adult who is authorized by the parent or guardian to supervise that child shall grant permission to, or knowingly allow, that child to operate an ATV in a manner that violates Section 38504. (C.V.C. 38504.1)

REQUIRED RIDER SAFETY TRAINING. No person under the age of 18 shall operate an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) unless he/she has received the safety course in this state or another state or is under the direct supervision of an adult who has the appropriate safety certification in his/her possession (38503 C.V.C.) For ATV certification information, please contact the ATV Safety Institute (ASI) at 949-727-3727.


  • Noise emissions of off-highway vehicles shall be limited to not more than 96 dbA if manufactured on or after January 1, 1986, and not more than 101 dbA if manufactured prior to January 1, 1986. Other restrictions may apply. Please visit CA OHMVRD web site for more information.

  • Sirens (38375 C.V.C.)

    • An off-highway motor vehicle, except an authorized emergency vehicle, shall not be equipped with a siren.

    • A person driving an off-highway motor vehicle, except the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle as permitted by 21055, shall not use a siren.

CARRYING OF PASSENGERS. No operator of an all-terrain vehicle may carry a passenger when operating on public lands. However, the operator of an all-terrain vehicle, that is designed for operation off of the highway by an operator with no more than one passenger, may carry a passenger when operating on public lands. (38506 C.V.C.)

OPERATING AN OHV UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF ALCOHOL AND/OR DRUGS. It is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or any drug, or under the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and any drug, to drive a vehicle. (23152(a) C.V.C.). Driving while license is suspended/revoked off road as well as on road is against the law. (14601 C.V.C.)


  • Basic speed law: Don't operate an off-highway vehicle faster than it is safe for conditions. (38305 C.V.C.)

  • Prima Facie Speed Limit: The prima facie speed limit within 50 feet of any campground, campsite, or concentration of people or animals shall be under 15 m.p.h. unless changed as authorized by the code. (38310 C.V.C.)


  • Vehicles operated on federal and state highways, county roads, and BLM's Gecko Road, Gray's Well Road, and McCain Valley must be licensed for highway use.

  • Off highway vehicles owned by California residents must be registered with the California Department of Motor Vehicles and display a valid Green Sticker or Red Sticker Vehicle Identification Tag (38020,38010 C.V.C.) in a clearly visible location on the vehicle. (38170 C.V.C.) View Red Sticker riding schedule.

  • Off highway vehicles that do not have a valid registration or permit from the owners home state (incl. Mexico and Canada) will be required to purchase a California nonresident permit (sticker) through selected vendors in CA, NV, AZ (view vendor list). Permits may also be purchased from CA Dept. of Parks and Recreation 916 324-4442. (38020 C.V.C.)

REQUIRED EQUIPMENT. According to California State law, any off highway vehicle must be equipped with an approved muffler, brakes, and spark arrester. Headlight and taillight are required for operation at night. Tail lights must include at least one red light.

LIGHT PROHIBITION. A person shall not display a flashing or steady burning red or blue warning light on an off-highway motor vehicle except as permitted by Section 21055 or when an extreme hazard exists. (38346 C.V.C.)

ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE. No person shall operate on off-highway vehicle in a manner likely to cause environmental damage. (38319 C.V.C., 43 CFR 8341.1 {f} {4}).

FIREARMS. California State law - Firearms must not be discharged within 150 yards of residences, buildings, campsites, occupied areas, RECREATIONAL AREAS, or domestic livestock. No shooting from or across any road. No shooting from a vehicle. It is unlawful to carry a loaded weapon in a vehicle.