ATV & Snowmobile Safety

On this page:

Taking a ride on an ATV, UTV or snowmobile is a great way to be active and enjoy the beautiful Maine outdoors. Following safety precautions, rules and common sense are necessary ways to ensure your ride on one of these machines is as safe as it is fun.

ATVs and UTVs are intended for off-road use and may be difficult to control on pavement and other surfaces. Different ATV models handle differently so it's important to familiarize yourself with each machine you ride by reading the owner's manual and following the safety, maintenance and operational guidelines.

Because ATVs can cause serious injuries if used improperly, riders should also know their own abilities and limitations and never overdrive their machine just to keep up with others or impress someone.

If you have a youngster who is about to ride an ATV, there are special considerations that you should keep in mind. Although a child may be the recommended age to ride a particular size ATV, not all youngsters have the strength, skills, or judgment needed to operate an ATV. You should supervise your youngster's operation of the ATV at all times, and should permit continued use only if you determine that your youngster has the ability and judgment to operate the ATV safely. You should also read Parents, Youngsters and ATVs, available from ASI.

For more information about ATV Safety, call the Consumer Product Safety Commission at 1-800-638-2772 or the ATV Distributors' Safety Hotline at 1-800-852-5344.

Remember, Maine requires riders under 16 years of age to successfully complete an ATV safety course and be accompanied by an adult but for a few exceptions. In addition, follow helpful manufacturer’s recommendations (not law) listed to the right that provide minimum ages for ATV Model Sizes.

ATV Model Size Minimum Age
Under 70cc 6 years and older
70 - 90cc 12 years and older
Over 90cc 16 years and older

Be Cautious…ATVs are not toys. Serious injury can result from improper use of ATVs, but with preparation and practice, you can safely develop and expand your riding skills. Riding ATVs can be an enjoyable form of outdoor recreation when done properly.

In addition to the information provided in this booklet, it is important to carefully read and follow the instructions and warnings contained in the ATV owner's manual and labels. ATVs handle differently from other vehicles, such as motorcycles and cars. Proper instruction and practice are important.

Having a pre-ride safety checklist is a good idea for all riders and includes checking the mechanical condition of the machine and making sure you have spare parts, survival items and personal items needed for safety and comfort.

Riders should also leave a trip plan with someone else that lists their destination, travel times, contact information and anything else that could aid in finding a rider who gets lost or injured.

When it comes to snowmobiling, the safest rule is to never cross lakes or rivers, since doing so puts you at risk of plunging through the ice. If you decide to snowmobile on ice, make sure the ice is safely frozen and only trust your own judgment.

Drowning is a leading cause of snowmobile fatalities so buying a buoyant snowmobile suit could be a life-saving decision. If you do go through the ice, your helmet and snowmobile suit, even if it's non-buoyant, may keep you afloat for several minutes. Try sliding back onto the ice, using anything sharp to dig in for pull. Kicking your feet like a seal can help propel you onto the ice.

If the ice keeps breaking, continue moving toward the shore or the direction from which you came. Don't remove your gloves or mitts. Once on the ice, you should roll away from the hole, making sure not to stand up until you are well away from it.

Back to top

Ice Thickness

In the wintertime, outdoor enthusiasts frequently need to know how thick the ice is and whether it is safe to walk across it. The American Pulpwood Association has published a handy reference chart that gives a good rule-of-thumb for pond and lake ice thickness.

This table is for clear, blue ice on lakes. Reduce the strength values by 15% for clear blue river ice. Slush ice is only one-half the strength of blue ice. This table does not apply for parked loads.

Snowmobile operators should also always know the area they ride in, ride at safe speeds, signal their riding intentions, watch for other snowmobilers and never operate under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Always remember: ATVs, UTVs and snowmobiles are not toys, so taking these precautions can mean the difference between an enjoyable time and a dangerous one.

Ice Thickness
(in inches)
Permissible Load on Clear, Blue Lake Ice
(reduce strength values for other types of ice)
One person on foot
Group of people (walking single file)
7 1/2"
Passenger Car (2 ton gross)
Light Truck (2½ ton gross)
Medium Truck (3½ ton gross)
Heavy Truck (7-8 ton gross)
Heavy Truck (10 ton gross)
25 tons
45 tons
70 tons
110 tons

Back to top

Recreational Safety Division

Do you need to take a safety course to operate an ATV?

Maine law requires a person 10 years of age or older but under 16 years of age to successfully complete a training program prior to operating on land other than that owned or leased by their parent or guardian or on which they live. These courses are made available in your area by volunteer instructors certified by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Pre-registration is requested and/or required. Courses will include 6 hours of instruction. Sponsors include school districts, sports clubs, civic groups, and others. Courses will be scheduled based on instructor availability. Those age 12 and older may complete the course online.

Recreational Safety Division
353 Water Street
Augusta, Maine 04330
(207) 287-5220

Mailing Address
41 State House Station,
Augusta, ME 04333-0041

Back to top

What We Do When No One is Watching

Roughly 94% of Maine’s forest land is privately owned, and more than half of that land area is open to the public. In total, landowners voluntarily open up more than 10 million acres of working farms and forests.

This access is an incredible gift, and in order to preserve it, everyone who ventures outdoors needs to understand the contribution that landowners make. The private land you use for recreation belongs to someone else. Access is a privilege, not a right.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife encourages all land users to voluntarily seek permission whenever possible. In turn, the Outdoor Partners landowner relations program would ask all landowners to consider using the courtesy card system. Respecting the property rights of landowners will lead to positive and cooperative relationships—and a positive, productive experience. It’s not only a courtesy — it’s the right thing to do.

For more information call the Landowner Relations Coordinators, Kris MacCabe or Rick LaFlamme, at (207) 287-5240.

Learn more about Maine's Landowner Relations Program

Back to top

Operating Under the Influence


Prohibitions against operating under the influence are as follows: A person may not operate or attempt to operate a recreational vehicle:

  • While under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs or a combination of liquor and drugs;
  • If 21 years of age or older, while having 0.08% or more by weight of alcohol in that person's blood; or
  • If less than 21 years of age, while having any amount of alcohol in the blood.


A person who violates this section commits a Class D crime. In determining an appropriate sentence, refusal to submit to a chemical test must in every case be an aggravating factor. In the following cases the following minimum penalties apply.

A. In the case of a person having no previous convictions of a violation of subsection 1-A within the previous 6-year period, the fine may not be less than $400.

If that person was adjudicated within the previous 6-year period for failure to comply with the duty to submit to and complete a blood-alcohol test under section 10702, subsection 1, the fine may not be less than $500. A conviction under this paragraph must include a period of incarceration of not less than 48 hours, none of which may be suspended, when the person:

  • Was tested as having a blood-alcohol level of 0.15% or more;
  • Failed or refused to stop upon request or signal of an officer in uniform, pursuant to section 6953 or 10651, during the operation that resulted in prosecution for operating under the influence or with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08% or more; or
  • Failed to submit to a chemical test to determine that person's blood-alcohol level or drug concentration, requested by a law enforcement officer on the occasion that resulted in the conviction.

Administering chemical tests; test results; evidence; reporting; immunity blood or breath test.

Administering chemical tests; breath, blood, or urine test. If the law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe a person operated or attempted to operate a watercraft, snowmobile, or ATV while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, drugs, or a combination of liquor and drugs, then that person has a duty to submit to chemical tests. The officer shall inform the person that a breath test will be administered, unless, in the determination of the officer, it is unreasonable for a breath test to be administered, in which case a blood, or urine test must be administered.

Back to top


Title 12 MRSA, §10001 - Definitions

"Guide" means a person who receives any form of remuneration for that person's services in accompanying or assisting a person in the fields or forests or on waters or ice within the jurisdiction of the State while hunting, fishing, trapping, boating, snowmobiling, using an all-terrain vehicle or camping at a primitive camping area.

Title 14 MRSA, §159-A - Limited liability for recreational or harvesting activities

1. Definitions.

A. "Premises" shall mean improved and unimproved lands, private ways, roads, any buildings or structures on those lands and waters standing on, flowing through or adjacent to those lands. "Premises" includes railroad property, railroad rights-of-way and utility corridors to which public access is permitted.

B. "Recreational or harvesting activities" means recreational activities conducted out-of-doors, including, but not limited to, hunting, fishing, trapping, camping, environmental education and research, hiking, rock climbing, ice climbing, bouldering, rappelling, recreational caving, sight-seeing, operating snow-traveling and all-terrain vehicles, skiing, hang-gliding, noncommercial aviation activities, dog sledding, equine activities, boating, sailing, canoeing, rafting, biking, picnicking, swimming or activities involving the harvesting or gathering of forest, field or marine products. It includes entry of, volunteer maintenance and improvement of, use of and passage over premises in order to pursue these activities. "Recreational or harvesting activities" does not include commercial agricultural or timber harvesting.

C. "Occupant" includes, but is not limited to, an individual, corporation, partnership, association or other legal entity that constructs or maintains trails or other improvements for public recreational use.

2. Limited Duty.

An owner, lessee, manager, holder of an easement or occupant of premises does not have a duty of care to keep the premises safe for entry or use by others for recreational or harvesting activities or to give warning of any hazardous condition, use, structure or activity on these premises to persons entering for those purposes. This subsection applies regardless of whether the owner, lessee, manager, holder of an easement or occupant has given permission to another to pursue recreational or harvesting activities on the premises.

3. Permissive Use.

An owner, lessee manager, holder of an easement or occupant who gives permission to another to pursue recreational or harvesting activities on the premises shall not thereby:

A. Extend any assurance that the premises are safe for those purposes;

B. Make the person to whom permission is granted an invitee or licensee to whom a duty of care is owed; or

C. Assume responsibility or incur liability for any injury to person or property caused by any act of persons to whom the permission is granted even if that injury occurs on property of another person.

4. Limitations on section.

This section shall not limit the liability which would otherwise exist:

A. For a willful or malicious failure to guard or to warn against a dangerous condition, use, structure or activity;

B. For an injury suffered in any case where permission to pursue any recreational or harvesting activities was granted for a consideration other than the consideration, if any, paid to the following:

(1) The landowner or the landowner's agent by the State; or

(2) The landowner or the landowner's agent for use of the premises on which the injury was suffered, as long as the premises are not used primarily for commercial recreational purposes and as long as the user has not been granted the exclusive right to make use of the premises for recreational activities; or

C. For an injury caused, by acts of persons to whom permission to pursue any recreational or harvesting activities was granted, to other persons to whom the person granting permission, or the owner, lessee, manager, holder of an easement or occupant of the premises, owed a duty to keep the premises safe or to warn of danger.

5. No duty created.

Nothing in this section creates a duty of care or ground of liability for injury to a person or property.

6. Costs and fees.

The court shall award any direct legal costs, including reasonable attorney's fees, to an owner, lessee, manager, holder of an easement or occupant who is found not to be liable for injury to a person or property pursuant to this section.

Title 14 MRSA, §7551-B - Trespass damages

Any person who intentionally enters the land of another without permission and causes damage to property is liable to the owner in a civil action if the person: damages or throws down any fence, bar or gate; leaves a gate open; breaks glass; damages any road, drainage ditch, culvert, bridge, sign or paint marking; or does other damage to any structure on property not that person's own or throws, drops, deposits, discards, dumps or otherwise disposes of litter, as defined in Title 17, section 2263, subsection 2, in any manner or amount, on property that is not that person's own.

If the damage is intentional the person doing the damage is liable to the owner for 2 times the actual damage plus additional costs which includes the attorney fees of the landowner, costs and the value of the owner's time spent on involvement in an enforcement proceeding; if the damage is not caused intentionally, the person is liable to the owner for the actual damages plus the costs described above.

For damage to property under this section the owner's damages may be measured either by the replacement value of the damaged property or by the cost of repairing the damaged property. For damages for disposing of litter, the owner's damages include the direct costs associated with properly disposing of the litter, including obtaining permits, and the costs associated with any site remediation work undertaken as a result of the litter.

Title 14 MRSA, §7552 - Injury to land, forest products or agricultural products

Without permission of the owner, a person may not cut down, damage, destroy or carry away any forest product, ornamental or fruit tree, agricultural products, stones, gravel, ore, goods or property of any kind from land not that persons own.

Title 17 MRSA, §2510 - Unlawful cutting of trees

It is unlawful for any person to intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or negligently cut down or fell any tree without the consent of the owner of the property on which the tree stands. Department of Transportation, Public Utilities and municipal employees are exempt when working official in capacity.

Title 17-A MRSA, §402 - Criminal trespass

Property is posted if it is marked with signs or paint in one of the following ways and in a manner that is reasonably likely to come to the attention of an intruder:

  • Signs must indicate that access is prohibited, that access is prohibited without permission of the landowner or landowner's agent, or that access for a particular activity is prohibited.
  • One vertical "OSHA Safety Purple" stripe at least one inch in width and at least 8 inches in length means "Access by Permission Only" when it is placed on trees, posts or stones between three and five feet off the ground. These signs or paint stripes must mark the property at distances no more than 100 feet apart at locations that are readily visible to any person approaching the property, and at all vehicular access entries from a public road.
  • In addition, landowners may also, either verbally or in writing, personally communicate to others that access is prohibited.

    Remember, it is unlawful to remove, mutilate, deface or destroy a sign or paint mark that is placed in order to prohibit or restrict access; and it is unlawful to post the land of another without permission of the landowner.

    The owner of a recreational vehicle, the person who gives or furnishes that recreational vehicle to a person under 18 years of age and the parent or guardian responsible for the care of that minor are jointly and severally liable with the minor for any damages caused in the operation of the recreational vehicle by that minor.

These portions of the revised statutes are summarized. For full text refer to the Maine Revised Statutes.

These portions of the revised statutes are summarized. For full text refer to the Maine Revised Statutes.

Back to top