ATV. It stands for all-terrain vehicle. An ATV is known as a three-wheeler, a four-wheeler, or a quad and it is a motorized single-passenger vehicle straddled and steered by the operator.
A UTV, or Utility Task Vehicle, is a bit different. It is a four-wheeled, off-road vehicle with two or more seats with seat belts, a windscreen, and covered by a steel rod cage. It is large enough to haul your gear with you in its storage space.
Typically, a UTV is more expensive than an ATV because it is larger and better equipped for safety. These vehicles are strictly for off-road use. However, they are not allowed to be used on any beaches or sand dunes in Alabama.
In Alabama, you do not have to register your ATV or UTV, but you should keep your ownership documents with you. You do not have to have any particular training to operate an ATV or UTV.
While you cannot travel on state roads with an ATV/UTV, you
can use your vehicle at an ATV park, a public off-road facility, or on private
In the U.S. between 1982 and 2015, there were more than 14,000 ATV-related deaths along with 98,000 injuries that resulted in emergency room visits, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (USCPSC).
Injuries may occur when someone is thrown from the vehicle or the vehicle rolls over on the rider or passengers.
Bystanders have been injured as well. Injuries generally include head trauma, concussions, spinal cord and neck injuries, fractures and dislocations.
It is advised to wear a helmet, heavy-duty clothing, and gloves when riding your off-road vehicle. A helmet can help you avoid the much-dreaded traumatic brain injury or TBI, which is often seen in an accident involving an off-road vehicle.
While it may be fun to race your ATV or UTV after drinking, a
TBI is an injury that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to recover from.
Driving an ATV/UTV While Intoxicated
Just like operating a passenger car or truck, it is against Alabama law to operate an ATV or UTV while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. One should exercise caution and not speed or drive in a reckless manner that endangers the vehicle’s occupants or pedestrians.
Think of an ATV/UTV being a lot like a car in terms of law enforcement. If an ATV/UTV driver is caught driving while intoxicated, he could be charged with a DUI (driving under the influence), even if he is off the highway.
If your vehicle has wheels and a motor of any kind, you can be charged for DUI.
The penalties vary by state, but in Alabama, state law says you can have your license suspended for up to three years for the third offense and face a mandatory alcohol education and treatment assessment.
In Alabama the law reads:
1st offense – 90 days license suspension/ revocation
2nd offense – 1 year license suspension / revocation
3rd offense – 3 year license suspension / revocation
Unlike many other states, in Alabama, you will not lose your off-road vehicle if caught drunk driving, nor will you have to face having an ignition interlock device placed in the vehicle. That is a device requiring someone who has been charged for DUI to blow into a tube and if your BAC (blood alcohol concentration) is over 0.08% the vehicle will not start.
ATV Use on Private Property
One of the issues that arises legally when charging someone with an off-road DUI is did that police officer have a lawful right to be on that property?
In the case of an accident resulting from an off-road incident, it may not make any difference if the property is private or not.
If you have been charged for driving under the influence while behind the wheel of an ATV/UTV, whether or not there were injuries involved, you will need the assistance of an experienced personal injury law firm that understands the Alabama laws regarding the use of off-highway vehicles.
Call the Mobile office of Jason Darley at (251) 441-7772 so he can explore all of the avenues available to you during this difficult time.