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Youth Riders

Oregon has several laws that are designed to help keep youth safe while enjoying ATV recreation.

​Oregon requires an ATV Safety Education Card for youth operating ATVs on public land. A free online course is available at Youth under the age of 16 need to complete a  hands-on course in addition to the online course within 6 months.

ATV Safety Education Card

For complete information about getting the card for both youth and adults visit our ATV Safety website.

Class I (quad, 3-wheelers) – There is no minimum age, but youth must meet rider fit requirements.

Youths operating Class I (quad) ATVs that are too big for them are at serious risk of injury or death. It is all too common for tragedy to strike a family when an ATV overturns and crushes or suffocates a youth. Youth must meet all the following minimum physical size requirements (Rider Fit) in relationship to the vehicle:

  • Brake Reach: With hands placed in the normal operating position and fingers straight out, the first joint (from the tip) of the middle finger must extend beyond the brake lever.

    Rider Fit-brake reach

  • Leg Length: When sitting and with feet on the pegs, the knees must be bent at least 45 degrees.

    Rider Fit-leg length

  • Grip Reach: While sitting upright on the ATV with hands on the handlebars and not leaning forward, there must be a distinct angle between the upper arm and the forearm.

  • Turning of Handlebars: The operator must be able to turn the handlebars from lock to lock while maintaining grip on the handlebars and maintaining throttle and brake control.

    Rider Fit-reach

  • Disabled operators are allowed to use prosthetic devices or modified or adaptive equipment to achieve rider fit for Class I or IV ATVs.

Class II (sand rail, trucks, SUVs) – Must be at least 15 years old with “driving privileges” (license or learners permit)

Class III (off-road motorcycle) – Must be at least 7 years old.

Class IV (side by side) – Operators under age of 16 must meet manufactures age recommendation. Therefore, youth can only operate youth machines.

​DOT approved helmets are required for Youth under age 18 for all ATVs, except Class II (sand rail, trucks, SUVs), which are street legal (have a license plate and current registration) 

Class I (quad, 3-wheelers) – Helmets required for all youth under 18.

Class II (sand rail, trucks, SUVs):

  • Helmets required for all youth under 18 in non-street legal vehicles
  • Helmets not required for youth in street legal vehicles

Class III (off-road motorcycle) – Helmets required for all youth under 18

Class IV (side by side) – Helmets required for all youth under 18

See ORS 821.202

​All youth under age 16 must wear a seatbelt and follow rules for highway use of child restraining seats. If a child must be in a child seat on the highway, they must also be in a child seat on a Class II (sand rail, trucks, SUVs) or Class IV (side by side) ATV. A child should never be placed in child seat on a Class I (Quad) since it does not have a roll over protection system.

Oregon law also states that all Class II (sand rail, trucks, SUVs) or Class IV (side by side) vehicles must have a seat and seat belt for the operator and all the passengers. Therefore, youth may not ride in the back of a pickup truck. 

See ORS 811.210, 811.215 and OAR 735-116-0000 (i) (j)

​Adult Supervision is required for youth operators under age 16.

  • By law, a supervisor is defined as a person who is at least 18 years of age, holds a valid ATV Safety Education Card, and is able to provide immediate direction and assistance to the youth.

Some of the worst accidents have been due to a lack of adult supervision. Adults are important to teach youth proper skills, make sure youth do not get out of control and provide assistance in case of an accident or vehicle breakdown.

  • When riding on trails or the dunes, it is best if the adult leads and the youth follows. That way the youth can mimic the adult. This has the adult making decisions such as at intersections or coming upon other traffic. If possible, it is best to have a second adult behind all the youth.

  • If you are in a youth riding area and the adult is not riding on an ATV, the youth needs to be within visual distance. The adult supervising must also have a safety card, even if they are not riding.

See ORS 821.170 – 821.203

  • ​Helmet is required if under age 18 in all Classes of ATVs. Both operators and passengers of all classes of ATVs must wear a DOT approved helmet with the chin strap fastened if they are under age 18 (unless in a registered street legal Class II vehicle with a roof or roll bar).

  • Seat belts are required to be worn if under 16 in Class II and IV vehicles.  Additionally, the vehicle must have a seat and a securely mounted quick-release seat belt for the driver and each passenger.

  • Children riding as passengers must follow ODOT on-road restraint requirements

  • Riding double on a Class I (quad) and Class III (motorcycles) ATVs  can be very dangerous. All ATVs must a floor pan or foot pegs which keeps the driver's and passenger's feet within the frame of or from underneath the vehicle.

    Additionally, there is a law that says that the passenger cannot be in the operator’s lap or embrace (ORS 811.190 “Driver Operations with Obstructing Passenger”). This is a Class D traffic violation.

If riding double on a motorcycle, you must have a second set of foot pegs, which are common on street legal motorcycles.

If riding double on a quad, the passenger must be behind the operator, and must have room for their feet on the foot pegs/floorboard. A passenger may not ride on the front or rear rack of a quad since there is no foot protection. 

See ORS 811.190, OAR 735-116-0000 (e)

​Required Protective Gear

  • Helmet – The most important piece of protective gear is a DOT approved motorcycle helmet to help prevent serious head injury. The fastened helmet should fit snugly and be worn with a good pair of goggles. Note: all riders and any passengers under age 18 are required by law to wear a DOT approved helmet with the chin strap fastened.

Recommended Protective Gear

  • Goggles – Goggles are essential to help maintain your vision and protect your eyes. Goggles must fit tightly against your face to help keep sand, dust, and debris out of your eyes. Eyeglasses or sunglasses do not provide adequate eye protection. Goggles should be impact resistant. Consider colored lenses to help improve visual contrast during the day.

  • Gloves – A good pair of riding gloves will provide protection and comfort while riding. Gloves help to maintain handle bar and steering wheel grip while preventing your hands from getting cold, bruised, scraped and sore.

  • Long-Sleeve Shirt and Long Pants – Long-sleeve shirts and long pants help to prevent scratches and abrasions while providing a needed barrier between your skin and the elements. Generally, the stronger the material, the better.

  • Sturdy over-the-ankle boots – Sturdy over-the-ankle boots provide ankle support and help to prevent your feet from slipping off the footrests. They also protect your feet and lower legs from hazards like rocks and tree roots, and offer protection from sharp or hot parts of your vehicle.

  • Knee and elbow pads

  • Chest Protector

​There are several fun websites for youth that are both entertaining and will help to teach kids about proper ATV Use:

Let your kids explore the Adventure Trail with “Penny and Rascal” on the National OHV Conservation Council (NOHVCC) website

Kids Tread Lightly Page

Both of these non-profits have good information for adults also


Jeff Trejo
ATV Safety Education Coordinator
725 Summer St. NE Suite C
Salem, OR 97301