After the transition into spring weather and hobbies and recreation, including all-terrain vehicle riding, we were asked to cover ATV laws specifically for youth operators.

Each year, we see an increase in ATV traffic and recreation in our county, specifically with youth operators. We would like to educate both youth riders and parents or family members of youth riders on legal operation considerations to make your ride enjoyable, safe and legal.

All riders in Minnesota who were born after July 1, 1987, are required to complete an approved ATV safety course and carry the Minnesota ATV Safety Certificate with them while riding on public lands. Effective July 1, 2017, youth ages 6-15 must complete the following:

Online ATV safety course; hands-on ATV riding performance class (a parent or guardian must be present at the hands-on training portion for youth ages 6-10); first, complete an ATV safety online course online at ATVcourse.com (the fee for the online course is $24.95); next, attend a Hands-On ATV Safety Training class. Students ages 6-15 must register for a Hands-On ATV Safety Training class at https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/vehicle/atv/index.html. The instructor may collect a fee.

The hands-on training takes into account the following considerations: Student must meet fit requirements, basic ATV operation, protecting the environment, common ATV parts and controls, Minnesota rules and laws, responsible ATV riding skills for trail riding, and practicing/demonstrating skills on an ATV course. Students must be fitted to the ATV they will be operating.

Students can print their ATV Safety Certificate from the Department of Natural Resources website at https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/vehicle/atv/index.html after passing the hands-on class. Instructions are provided during class (includes DNR fee of $10). The ATV Certificate becomes valid at age 12.

The Cass County Sheriff's Office has partnered with the Woodtick Wheelers ATV Club and, starting this spring, is offering the ATV safety course in our area schools, where the certification can be completed.

In addition to the required ATV safety certificate, all riders who are under 18 and who are riding on public lands must follow these restrictions:

  • Children under age 10 may only operate a Class 1 ATV on private property with the landowner's consent.
  • Children ages 10 and 11 can operate a Class 1 ATV on private property with the permission of the landowner. They can also operate on public lands and frozen water of the state only if the ATV has an engine of 90cc or less and they are accompanied by a parent or guardian.
  • Children ages 12-15 must follow these restrictions: Those under age 15 may not operate any Class 2 ATV; must carry an ATV Safety Certificate that is approved and recognized by the state; and may operate on public lands and frozen waters of the state only if accompanied by an adult 18 or older who is on a separate ATV and who holds a valid driver's license.
  • Children 16 and 17 must follow these restrictions: Must carry an ATV Safety Certificate that is approved and recognized by the state to operate on public lands; and must have a valid driver's license when crossing a roadway or operating on road rights of way.

The Cass County Sheriff's Office and The Minnesota DNR strongly encourage all ATV riders to wear a proper helmet, eye protection, gloves and over-the-ankle boots when riding any ATV. A helmet is the single most important piece of safety equipment you can have and wearing one while riding can save your life!

All ATV and OHV riders under age 18 are required to wear an approved, securely fastened helmet at all times when riding. All helmets must meet the Department of Transportation standards and display DOT approval. Helmets that are not DOT-approved are not appropriate headgear for ATV riding.

As always, we encourage safe and legal riding and operating for all ages of enthusiasts. Before heading out on Minnesota's ATV and OHV trails, please remember the following tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable ride: Always wear appropriate safety gear when riding; ensure your ATV is properly registered in the state; always stay on designated trails and stay off paved roads; obtain the landowner's permission before going onto private land; know before you go - contact the landowner, local clubs or officials to find out about open ATV trails or routes; never ride an ATV while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

If you have specific questions that you would like answered in this column or in person, please feel free to contact me anytime using one of the following methods: by email at tom.burch@co.cass.mn.us; by phone at 218-547-1424 or 800-450-2677; or by mail or in person at Cass County Sheriff's Office, 303 Minnesota Ave. W, P.O. Box No. 1119, Walker, MN, 56484.