Updated: Jul 23, 2020
By Sarah Everhart
All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) or 4-wheelers are typical on many Maryland farms and used for both recreation and farm purposes, but when and how can these vehicles be driven in accordance with the law? Maryland law uses the term “off-highway recreational vehicle” to refer to what is commonly known as a recreational ATV and specifically excludes from the definition “a farm vehicle when used exclusively on farm property by a farmer.” This means that the law establishes separate treatment of recreational ATVs and ATVs used only on farms.
The general law in Maryland is that if a vehicle (including an ATV) is not registered, a person may not drive the vehicle on a highway in the State. Therefore, the use of a recreational ATV on a State highway is a violation of State law and is treated just like any other driving violation and reported to the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA). This can be a serious issue for young ATV riders trying to get their permits/licenses from the MVA.
As for farm ATVs, if a farmer intends to only use the ATV on his or her property, it does not require any registration with MVA. What if a farmer needs to use the ATV on a highway to access other farmland? The law used to require that an ATV driven on a highway for this purpose be registered with the MVA but the Maryland General Assembly changed this law effective June 1, 2015. According to House Bill 812, the Transportation Article of the Maryland Code now provides that a local jurisdiction may authorize a person to cross a highway on an ATV at a right angle to access a farm or to move from one part of a farm to another part of the same farm. It is important to note that the change in law does not require local jurisdictions to permit this type of activity but merely allows them to make this exception to the general rule. This means that if a local jurisdiction feels that allowing farmers to use ATVs on highways to access farmland is detrimental to the public health, safety and welfare they don’t have to make this allowance and registration of ATVs would be required. If a farm use ATV required registration, the most cost affordable way to register a farm ATV would be with a Farm Area Vehicle registration.
ALEI has previously posted a comprehensive blog entry about farm vehicle laws in general found here: http://www.aglaw.umd.edu/blog/farm-vehicle-drivers-understanding-the-dos-and-donts?rq=farm%20vehicles