Side-by-sides are a fun and adventurous vehicle to drive with your family and friends. When you purchase your first side-by-side vehicle, you would want to drive it wherever you are going. However, they are still unsafe to drive on public roads and also illegal.
Driving side-by-sides in California is challenging if you don’t know whether you can legally drive the vehicle on public roads or not. California does not permit you to drive side-by-side vehicles on the street.
Why? The populated road system and the high population density make it unsafe and illegal to drive side-by-sides on roads. If you want to learn more about why driving UTVs is not street legal in California, then read along with the article further.
Why Is It Illegal To Drive UTVs on California Roads?
Being the fourth most populated state in the United States, California is interconnected with many other cities through freeways and other crowded streets. One such big city is Los Angeles, which solely has about 4 million population.
It seems understandable why side-by-side is not legal, to keep other people and you safe on the streets. If more people began to drive on the roads, California would become the most unsafe place to drive.
If you still think of getting a license for UTVs in California, you have good chances if you are living in a rural area. California is home to many small farming districts which is less populated in comparison to the cities. It is safe to drive a side-by-side vehicle in those areas.
As far as California law is concerned, ATVs and UTVs cannot become legal to drive public roads. However, with stricter laws, you do not have to equip safety gear for your UTV and pass the road testing exam.
What Are The Regulations In California For Off-Highway Vehicles?
Side-by-sides in California is known as OHVs or Off-Highway vehicles. Some vehicles include motor-driven cycles, dune buggies, jeeps, motorcycles, trail bikes, snowmobiles, and all-terrain vehicles.
If someone owns any of the vehicles mentioned above, they must acquire registration and an official title of the vehicle. If you have bought your side-by-side from a dealer in California, the dealer will provide you with the DMV documents that will register the vehicle under your name. Additionally, you have to pay the fees to the dealer.
In case you have bought side-by-side outside California, you must submit some essential documents to get it recognized by California state laws. The documents include:
- Fees of OHV
- Proof of vehicle ownership includes sale bills, certificate of origin, out of state titling documents, and original copy of the factory invoice.
- Application for registration and title
- Vehicle verification form authorized by anyone from DMV employee, vehicle verifier, to peace officer.
In some cases, you might also require to submit:
- Application for Transfer or Duplicate of Title
- Certificate of Planned Non-Operation/Non-Operation Certification
- ID plates
- Application for Documents, Stickers, and Replacement Plates
Even if California recognizes your side-by-side, you are still not allowed to drive on the roads. You need to know the rules of the road before you enter any state. In California, they will never allow it under any circumstances.
Driving OHVs On The Arizona Strip
The California laws are somehow inconvenient for some side-by-sides owners as you cannot enjoy the vehicle’s full ownership by not driving on the roads. What if you have a designated place somewhere close to California to drive your side-by-sides on the streets?
Yes, there is one particular place where you can incessantly drive your UTVs. It is the Arizona strip. Arizona is located along the borders of California, and many rural areas of California can be reached in hours from the state.
Arizona strip is situated on the Northeastern side of Arizona, which is also reachable from trails on the Arizona/Utah border, including Sand Hollow State Park, Sunshine Trail, Temple Trail, Honeymoon Trail, and Warner Valley Trail. The Arizona Strip is equipped with a track trail and graded dirt roads where you can enjoy and ride your UTVs.
Arizona is the closest place where you can experience street legal UTV driving as soon as you cross California’s borders. You can come back to California after finishing your driving.
Regulations of Driving OHVs on the Arizona Strip
The state laws for driving UTVs in Arizona are quite different from those of California. It is relatively easy and straightforward to acquire a license for street legal UTV. Though, there are some requirements that everyone needs to fulfill to drive on the Arizona Strip:
- Operators who are 16 or 17 years old should always wear a helmet for safety.
- To drive the OHVs on streets, you need either a learner’s permit or a valid State operator’s license required by Federal or State laws.
- All the operators or drivers should wear and carry eye protection.
- The OHV should have the latest California’s Green or Red sticker to drive within Arizona.
- The OHVs must be equipped with a rearview mirror.
- No extra passengers are allowed unless the OHVs are intended to accommodate more people.
- Can only drive on labeled places, including USFS roads, off-road special use areas, BLM, and some designated trails.
- While operating on state/country roads, the OHV should be registered and equipped with a metal license plate.
As each state has its set of rules and regulations, you must have a thorough knowledge and understanding of the state laws. Therefore, if you are driving in Arizona state, all the state laws will be applicable. Make sure that you know the rules before you start operating your side-by-side on their roads.
Red VS Green Stickers
Among many other OHV registration and driving requirements, Green and Red stickers also play a crucial role. If you drive an OHV only, you should either acquire a Red Sticker or a Green Sticker authorized by DMV.
For the 2002 or earlier models of California OHV, a Green sticker is issued. The vehicles include those with previously issued red stickers up to 2003 and the latest models complying with California emission standards. If you would like to use your side-by-sides all-year-round, you require a green sticker.
The OHVs which are not California emission standards certified are issued Red stickers. The 2003 or latest models come under this category. Additionally, if the Vehicle Identification Number includes C or 3 in the eighth position, the OHV will have a red sticker. Red stickers are issued only for seasonal use.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Legally Drive Side-By-Sides In Florida?
A side-by-side will not become street legal as soon as you purchase it in Florida. However, there can be some adjustments that can make your UTV street legal. You will require approval from the motor vehicles department and some added accessories.
It is still possible to drive UTV legally on the streets of Florida.
Is It Street-Legal To Drive Side-By-Sides In Ohio?
Yes, it is very likely to get side-by-sides Street legal in Ohio once you pass the required documentation process of acquiring registration and title. There might be some alterations as are necessary for making side-by-side Street legal. However, the local authorities will decide where you can use the side-by-side on the roads.
Can You Legally Drive ATVs In Every State?
No, ATVs are not legal to drive on the roads in every other state. In California, whether it is ATV or UTV, you cannot drive any of the vehicles on roads. In Arizona, it involves a simple process to make ATV legal to drive on the streets.
In other states, you might have to go through a complicated process to make ATV street legal.
Is It Possible To Operate UTV Or ATV On The Streets Of California?
As we have discussed above that California does not permit UTV or ATV to drive on the streets. However, there are some exceptions, such as:
- You can drive on the designated streets for ATV vehicles fulfilling the following conditions: the street is equipped with an operational stoplight, and you have the driver’s license.
- You can cross a two-lane street at 90 degrees angle.
- You can cross larger than two lanes streets where this type of crossing is allowed with proper signage.
What Are The Age Restrictions For Operating OHV In California?
For any side-by-side operator who is under 18 years old, they must fulfill one of the three criteria given below:
- The operator must be accompanied by a supervisor or instructor who carries a safety certificate.
- The operator has undertaken the safety course under the guidance of an instructor.
- The operator must possess a safety certificate.
- In California, to drive a side-by-side, the operator must be either 16 years or older. Additionally, a supervisor should always be there authorized by the child’s guardian or parents.
Where side-by-sides are not street legal in California, there are other OHV that is street legal. For example, motorcycles. Motorcycles are frequently seen on the California roads. However, UTVs and ATVs are still exempted from becoming street legal in California.
Although you cannot ride the side-by-sides on California’s streets, there are a number of trails specially designed to drive UTVs in California. Moreover, you can also drive your UTV to some private property after taking permission from the owner.
If you still want to have an on-road driving experience, you can visit the Arizona strip to drive your side-by-side. We hope you have got a handful of information about why UTV and ATV are not street legal in California; you will be careful when you think of driving a UTV on the roads.