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A person riding on an ATV in a dessert area.

Is It Legal to Drink While Driving an ATV or UTV Off-Road?

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Driving a utility vehicle or all-terrain vehicle is a favorite weekend activity for many. The best part about it is it doesn’t have as many legal restrictions as motor vehicles. For instance, you are not required by law to register your ATV or UTV. 

However, this leads many people to think they can’t face legal consequences for drinking while operating an ATV or UTV. The truth is that driving an off-roader while intoxicated is against the law and punishable in the same way as driving a truck, car, or motorcycle.

Can you drink while driving an ATV? The law says no

A person riding on an ATV in a dessert area.
A person riding an ATV | Getty Images

Believe it or not, you can get a DUI even if you weren’t driving a car. You don’t have to be on the road to be arrested for driving while intoxicated in some states. States like Washington DC can charge you separately for a DUI while offroading.

In many cases, you’ll find that you will get charged the same way as someone behind the wheel of a car or truck. Under federal and state law, you can get charged with a DUI if your blood alcohol concentration level is .08% or more. You can also get charged if you are under the influence of a narcotic drug or a combination of alcohol or a drug.

State laws define an ATV and UTV as three or four-wheeled motor vehicles powered by an engine. If you operate the ATV under the influence with a high blood alcohol level, you can get charged even if you were not involved in an accident or don’t cause damage or injury to others.

Penalties of driving an ATV and UTV while intoxicated

Several factors are usually considered before the court hands out punishment for driving off-road while drunk. The factors include your location when you got pulled over, injuries you may have caused due to intoxication, your criminal records, and any DWI offenses you may have.

The penalties for operating a three or four-wheeler off-road vary from state to state. However, as Find Law reports, many states treat the charge the same way as a standard DUI, and the consequences vary based on the factors mentioned above.

The penalties include heavy fines, enrollment into DUI school as an alternative rehabilitation method, enforcement of an ignition interlock device that allows you to start the ATV when the breath analyzer reads a blood alcohol level of .02% or less.

If you have three or more DUI convictions, you may get harsher penalties, including license revocation for up to five years, jail time, ATV confiscation, and a felony DUI charge. In extreme cases, your ATV can be impounded for a certain period. The court may also order you to sell your ATV if it’s proven you are a danger to yourself or others.

Safety tips

ATV and UTVs might look like harmless fun, but they have a high number of deaths associated with them. According to Darley Law, the number of ATV-related deaths in the US between 1982 and 2015 was more than 14,000, with 98,000 people getting injuries that resulted in emergency room visits.

To ensure you remain safe when driving an ATV, take a hands-on safety course on operating an off-roader. Also, wear a helmet and other protective gear at all times when on the ATV. If the ATV is designed for single-person use, don’t carry an extra person. Avoid riding on busy roads, and most importantly, don’t drive under the influence of alcohol.


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