- Special Sections
- Public Notices
Under certain conditions and only for purposes of farming, farmers are allowed to operate all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and Gator-type vehicles of limited size on county and township roads
Those vehicles may not be driven on state highways or city streets, however. And a driver's license is required for on-road operation.
Until, 2010, ATVs had been prohibited from anything more than crossing a public road unless a local ordinance provided further authorization.
Non-farm use of ATVs on public roads is still prohibited.
ATV – As defined by the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/1-101.8), an ATV is any motorized off-highway device designed to travel primarily off-highway, 50 inches or less in width, having a manufacturer’s dry weight of 900 pounds or less, traveling on 3 or more low-pressure tires, designed with a seat or saddle for operator use, and handlebars or steering wheel for steering control, except equipment such as lawnmowers.
ROHV – This designation is short for “recreational off-highway vehicle.” It is the formal name for Gator-type vehicles, which can informally go by a variety of other names. The Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/1-168.8) defines them as any motorized device designed to travel primarily off-highway, 64 inches or less in width, having a manufacturer’s dry weight of 2,000 pounds or less, traveling on 4 or more non-highway tires, de- signed with a non-straddle seat and a steering wheel for steering control, except equipment such as lawnmowers.
Off-Highway Motorcycle – These vehicles can generally be used by farmers, as ATVs are under this law (625 ILCS 5/1-153.1). They are defined as any motorized device designed to travel primarily off-highway on two wheels, having a seat or saddle for the use of the operator, upon or by which any person, persons or property may be transported or drawn.
Neighborhood Vehicles – These vehicles can have highway access – though more limited – if locally authorized. State code (625 ILCS 5/1-148.3m) defines these vehicles as a self-propelled, electric-powered, four-wheeled motor vehicle (or a self-propelled, gasoline-powered, four-wheeled motor vehicle with an engine displacement under 1,200 cubic centimeters) that is capable of attaining in one mile a speed of more than 20 miles per hour, but not more than 25 miles per hour, and which does not conform to federal regulations under Title 49 C.F.R. Part 571.500. These vehicles, generally known as golf carts, can – under certain conditions – be authorized by local jurisdictions to be operated on some roads where posted speed limits are 35 mph or less.
Generally, ATVs purchased on or after Jan. 1, 1998, are required to be titled; there is no known requirement for registration in Illinois.
Illinois law requires ATVs and ROHVs to be insured for on-road use if they will be used in that manner. Either a highway motor vehicle insurance policy meeting the minimum levels of coverage under Illinois’ mandatory vehicle insurance requirements or equivalent levels of coverage under a farm, home, or non-highway vehicle insurance policy is required. Talk with your insurance agent for specifics.
Illinois law requires the operators of such vehicles on the road hold a valid driver’s license. This effectively sets a minimum age for drivers, as well.
What does the State consider to be an ATV? That definition is spelled out in the Illinois Vehicle Code. It narrowly describes only a certain type of vehicle based on size, weight and configuration. It excludes others that the public might normally think of as ATVs, so be cautious as to how broadly you apply the A TV moniker . For specifics, see the definition of “all-terrain vehicle” on the first page of this document.
Are other off-road vehicles allowed the same advantage? The limited public road use allowance in the statute also applies to off-highway motorcycles. The Illinois Vehicle Code’s definition of an off highway motorcycle is: (625 ILCS 5/1-153.1) Off‐highway motorcycle. Any motorized device designed to travel primarily off-highway on 2 wheels, having a seat or saddle for the use of the operator, upon or by which any person, persons or property may be transported or drawn. (Source: P.A. 85‐830.)
Does this apply to vehicles such as the John Deere Gator or the Kubota RTV900?
Yes. The law applies the same on-road privileges to such cargo-hauling off-road vehicles—known by various names—up to 64” wide and up to 2,000# when being used for farming. Despite their utilitarian capability, this legislation calls these contrivances “Recreational Off-Highway Vehicles” (ROHV.)
The statutory language refers to “Roadway”—what’s that? Generally it refers to travel portion of the road, the area that is paved (other than shoulders.) The Illinois Vehicle Code’s definition of “Roadway” is: (625 ILCS 5/1-179) Roadway. That portion of a highway im- proved, designed or ordinarily used for vehicular travel, exclusive of the berm or shoulder. In the event a highway includes two or more separate roadways the term “roadway” as used herein shall refer to any such roadway separately but not to all such roadways collectively. (Source: P.A. 76-1586.)
Should an SMV emblem be displayed on the back of an ATV? Generally, the use of an SMV emblem in Illinois is not based on the speed of the vehicle; instead it is limited to four vehicle types:
• Implements of husbandry; Special mobile equipment (operating outside of con-
struction zones); Animal-drawn vehicles; and, Neighborhood vehicles.
Since the ATV does not meet any of those definitions, it is unlikely that the SMV emblem is required/allowed— though a formal judicial opinion has yet to be issued.
If used like a farm tractor, can an ATV be op- erated on public roads like a farm tractor can be?
No. The Illinois Vehicle Code specifies that an ATV is not considered to be a farm tractor. That distinction is found in the law’s definition of a farm tractor: (625 ILCS 5/1-120) Farm tractor. Every motor vehicle designed and used primarily as a farm implement for drawing wagons, plows, mowing machines and other implements of husbandry, and every imple- ment of husbandry which is self propelled, excluding all-terrain vehicles and off-highway motorcycles as defined in this Code.
From the practical perspective, this means that an ATV may not be operated on a state highway or city street as though it was a farm tractor.
Local governments may authorize the operation of certain non-highway vehicles on roadways under its jurisdic- tion if they deem it safe to do so. They must post signs along the route indicating that authorization.