Texas Statutes Regarding UTVs

UTVs, or side-by-sides are useful tools. Farmers, ranchers, and loggers all use them to get their daily work done. Oh yeah, and they are a ton of fun. Spend the day out bouncing over prairies and winding through canyons. Texas does a great job of balancing the fun with the work, but there are some rules you will need to follow to keep you out of hot water. 

Can I Ride on the Road?

utv riding

Image via Flickr by NRCS Montana

Texas has strict limits on UTV use on public roads. Farmers and ranchers can legally drive on the road, but even that has limits. If you are a farmer or rancher and use your side-by-side for business purposes, you can drive on the road with three conditions. It must be during daylight hours, it must be within 25 miles of your property, and you need to have a valid driver's license. 

Your ride will also need to comply with all of the safety and decal rules that apply to UTVs for off-road use.  What if you are out trail riding and need to cross a paved road? You can cross a road, but there are a few rules here you need to follow as well.

  • You must come to a complete stop before crossing.
  • You must cross the road at a 90-degree angle.
  • No crossing interstate highways.
  • You must cross in an area where there are no obstructions in the area preventing a quick crossing. 

In short, if you need to cross a road while you are out trail riding, stop and look both ways, then go straight across. 

How About Off-Road? 

Now let's get to the fun stuff. Texas has done a great job of making public lands available for you to play with your side-by-side. From Eisenhower State Park in Denison to Twin Buttes Reservoir way out in San Angelo, Texas is a very off-road friendly state. Of course, it can't keep up and police the trails without a few rules and regulations for you to follow. 

The first thing you need if you are riding on any public land or in a private park that has received a public grant is an off-road decal from the Texas parks and wildlife department. As of this writing, the decals are $16.00 and you can find a local place to purchase your decal by visiting the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website.   If you don't plan on riding on the road or on public lands, you will not need the decal. Be warned though. Being caught without the sticker is a class C misdemeanor and can result in up to a $500 fine.  

Safety Equipment for Riding on Public Lands

In addition to the OHV decal you need to ride on public lands in Texas, you also need to equip your ride with a few pieces of basic safety equipment. The first item listed in the manual is working brakes, allways handy on any type of vehicle. 

You will also need:

Once you have your ride equipped with these things and you have your OHV decal, you are almost ready to tear up the landscape. There is just one more thing we haven't talked about. 

Safety Rules for You

Now, if you are riding on private lands, you can feel free to say “hold my beer and watch this,” but public lands are a different story. Rule number one is no drinking and driving. Even in the middle of nowhere, Texas.  You will also need to wear your seatbelt or put on your harness if your UTV is equipped with them. 

If your UTV is equipped with bucket seats and a roll cage, a helmet is not required if you are over the age of 14. It is still a good idea to wear one, but the law won't be after you if you don't have one on. 

No drinking, buckle-up, and if you are under 14-years-old put on a brain bucket. It's that simple. 

Stay Safe and Have Fun

Texas is a great place to own a UTV. Whether you are a farmer using it for work or you're just out to play for a day, Texas will welcome you and your UTV. Texas has kept the rules simple. Stay off the road, keep basic safety equipment on your ride, and make smart choices about your safety. After that, all you need to do is tear up the terrain.

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