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Quad Bikes and the Law

View profile for Michael Pace
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There have been numerous fatal accidents involving quad bikes this year alone, including the death of 21-year-old Amarna Carthy from Nottinghamshire who died while riding a quad bike on holiday in Turkey.

According to the Health and Safety Executive the most common cause of death is head injury, and it advises riders to always wear a helmet. It is believed Amarna was wearing a helmet at the time but died instantly after hitting her head.

As a result of the high number of quad bike accidents every year, the laws and regulations surrounding these machines, which can be powerful and very heavy, are constantly coming under scrutiny – but not just from a health and safety angle.

I recently received a query from a client who wanted to know if it is illegal to ride a quad bike on a road, which is not as straightforward as it may at first seem!

Firstly, most quad bikes can’t be used on the road because they don’t meet road safety standards. It is also illegal to drive a quad bike without lawful authority on common land, moor land, footpaths, bridleways and restricted byways.

However, some makes and models are suitable for road use and it’s easy to find out either by checking with the manufacturer or the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) who may want to inspect the vehicle.

If the bike is approved for road use, it must also be registered with DVLA and have front and rear number plates and a valid MOT certificate if it is more than three years old. In addition, the driver must be over 16 and have a licence and third-party insurance.

In comparison the rules are a lot less stringent for riding off road. You don’t need a driving licence and you don’t have to tax and register your vehicle. But deciding what constitutes a road can be tricky.

A road is defined by Section 192 of the Road Traffic Act (RTA) as ‘any highway and any other road to which the public has access’.  Unfortunately, the RTA does not define the term highway, but case law suggests that it is any place where members of the public are afforded a right of way on foot, riding or accompanied by livestock.

However, if a member of the public has to overcome some sort of physical barrier such as a gate or defy a prohibition such as a ‘trespassers will be prosecuted’ notice, it will not be considered a road.

Usually footpaths, bridleways and restricted byways are signposted to avoid confusion, but occasionally it may be unclear.

Riding a quad bike unlawfully is a criminal matter and therefore it is important to know the law and where you stand. Similarly, if you are concerned about anyone riding a quad bike illegally you should contact the police who will be able to determine if the law is in fact being broken.