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Should NH set an age minimum for operating ATVs?

News Date

Riding all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) through the Granite State wilderness is often a family affair—something that some state and national health officials say needs to change.

No ATV age limits in NH

New Hampshire law does not set any minimum age for driving or riding four-wheelers on state trails and private property. Kids 12 and up can even drive ATVs on approved public roads without a license, as long as they have taken a safety course and have an adult present with them.

Problems with young ATV drivers

The Consumer Product Safety Commission warns against allowing any child under 6 to ride on or drive an ATV. The American Academy of Pediatrics argues only those 16 and up should be allowed to use such vehicles.

State Rep. Steven Smith, who chairs the New Hampshire House Transportation Committee, has recently stated that he is open to an age requirement for riding traditional, non-enclosed ATVs.

Those in favor of the state setting an age minimum for riding on and operating ATVs believe it would be in the best interest of public health. Four-wheeler accidents often cause head trauma and spine injuries—injuries that can do lasting damage to developing bodies. Young operators may also lack the maturity to operate a motorized vehicle. Along with protecting young people, an age limit could also reduce the strain on enforcement agencies—particularly New Hampshire Fish and Game.

Opposition to an ATV age limit

Those opposed to age minimums for four-wheelers point out that ATV recreation is a boon to local economies. Further, they believe that driving ATVs can be a great way for kids to learn how to operate motor vehicles safely and responsibly before they get their drivers licenses. Many families explore the beauty of the Granite State together on four-wheelers. Adding stricter age regulations to the state laws could mean some family members have to stay home.

Explore related issues on our State Parks & Recreation page.

What do you think? Should New Hampshire set an age minimum for operating ATVs? Let us know by leaving a comment – yes or no – in the comments section below.


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I have driven 3 wheelers as a child from 1983-1989. I have had many 3 wheelers such as ATC 110, 125, 185, 200, big red..... and quads since then. I believe it’s a crucial way for kids to learn how to respect a machine and follow the rules. Awareness, and perifial vision. Although, 3 wheelers aren’t really the thing anymore, kids riding 4 wheelers with proper parental supervision is definitely needed. I have taught valuable lessons to my children and respected the laws of NH up at Jericho state park. We have fond memories and safe arrivals. Learning how to handle and operate a 4 wheeler is crucial to a child’s future behind the wheel. I think laws about children should be spared, as I believe most families in NH are responsible with their kids than are not. Usually, a kid that has a 4 wheeler has a family that is responsible. Let’s not let the damn minority’s win this one!!! There are MORE responsible kids in NH than not!!! Let’s not take this away!!!


I understand the safety concern of many with young riders using highways. Right on the other side of the issue it has been my observation that while young riders are with their families, they are not the ones that are doing almost everything wrong. I do feel that we need to weigh in on this with our opinions however I also believe that our opinions will matter very little in the eyes of DOT and F&G, and DOS.
My opinion would be leave things as they are or just strengthen the requirement that youth under 14 need to be accompanied by parent or guardian.
Ted Burns Trail Admin. North Country ATV


I think you people should leave parents to be parents and stop trying to control everyone. Please take note. that no one will follow these laws regardless of any law you pass! If one want's their children to enjoy life outdoors away from video games, they will do it at all costs. that's the big issue with this world today. you people keep taking everything away from the children, so they have no choice but to be stuck inside becoming addicted to video games then moving up the ladder to drugs and missing out on what life has to offer.


Freedom always includes some level of risk. I learned to drive by operating farm equipment as soon as I was strong enough to push in a clutch. Parents should be allowed to teach their children and modify their permissions as those children develop. Remember, parents are responsible for their children's well-being and for their damage to themselves or others.

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