ATV Noise Pollution
ATVs (and UTVs) can cause noise problems in Pennsylvania’s neighborhoods or natural areas. Fortunately, the Pennsylvania Snowmobile and All-Terrain Vehicle Law (75 Pa.Cons.Stat. §§ 7701, et seq.) provides mandatory remedies for ATV abuse and noise. Notably, the ATV Law requires police to enforce the law, prohibits loud operation, and makes the owner (not operator) liable for negligence.
ATVs MUST Use Properly Functioning Mufflers to Suppress Noise
The the Pennsylvania Snowmobile and All-Terrain Vehicle Law 75 Pa.Cons.Stat.§7743 states, in part,
It is unlawful to operate a snowmobile or an ATV which is not equipped at all times with a muffler in good working order which blends the exhaust sound into the overall snowmobile or ATV sound and is in constant operation to prevent excessive or unusual sound. The exhaust system shall not emit or produce a sharp popping or crackling sound.
The same section also prohibits modifying mufflers to increase noise. The law authorizes the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR) to set maximum noise emissions from ATVs. See 75 Pa.Cons.Stat.§§7702 and 7743. (The DCNR’s noise limits have not yet been tested in court as, among other things, for violating Pennsylvania’s Environmental Constitutional Law.)
Law Enforcement (Police) MUST Enforce the Pennsylvania Snowmobile and All-Terrain Vehicle Law
Sometimes you call law enforcement to report ATV noise problems or illegal operation. The law enforcement officer responding may sometimes stonewall and fail to take action.
The Pennsylvania Snowmobile and All-Terrain Vehicle Law specifically requires law enforcement to enforce this law. The statute requires:
Every law enforcement officer in this Commonwealth and designated officers and employees of the department shall enforce the provisions of this chapter. 75 Pa.Cons.Stat.§7751(a) (emphasis added)
The ATV Statute empowers and requires every law enforcement officers to enforce this law.
The Snowmobile and All-Terrain Vehicle Law designates the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR) for rulemaking but does not limit enforcement to only DCNR law enforcement.
ATVs Generally Cannot Be Operated on Public Roads
Generally, ATV operators shall not operate ATVs on public roads. 75 Pa.Cons.Stat.§7721(a).
Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, it is unlawful to operate a snowmobile or an ATV on any street or highway which is not designated and posted as a snowmobile or an ATV road by the governmental agency having jurisdiction.
The law provides some exceptions such as a narrow permission to directly cross a road to reach a trail on the other side, operation (with limits) on a designated ATV-designated road, or in bona fide emergencies at the direction of law enforcement.
Conclusion—Pennsylvania Law Limits ATV Operation & Noise
ATV owners and operators must comply with Pennsylvania law when operating ATVs. That law requires noise suppression, generally limits ATV operation on public roads, and makes the ATV owner (not just the operator) legally liable for negligence. Law enforcement, if called to a complaint, must enforce the law according to the law itself. While not complete, the DCNR provides additional, general operating information. The DCNR also provides a flier summarizing ATV operating requirements.