It is illegal for all-terrain vehicles to be driven on paved roads and streets in New Jersey, but this is taking place more than you might imagine.

Reports of packs of ATVs, frequently driven by young people, suddenly roaring onto a street or boulevard in a town or city, panicking other drivers and pedestrians, are on the rise across the state. And as quickly as they appeared, the off-road vehicles will then turn down a side street and disappear before police can respond to the scene.

One Garden State lawmaker is pushing a plan to stop this from happening.

Assemblyman Don Guardian, R-Atlantic, said he’s crafting a measure that would make it easier for police to track down rogue ATV riders because in Atlantic City, Pleasantville and other parts of the state they are wreaking havoc.

They come out of nowhere

“When you see eight ATVs out of control, doing wheelies, screaming and yelling, carrying on, terrifying a neighborhood, it could end up with an accident or a death for them or bystanders,” Guardian said.

He said what’s been happening is one moment everything is normal then “all of a sudden you have 15 of these vehicles take over the entire street, popping wheelies and kind of terrorizing you whether you’re in a vehicle or you’re just simply enjoying the evening on your porch.”

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Identify the troublemakers

Guardian is sponsoring legislation that would require anyone who is buying an ATV to complete a registration form and place an identifying license plate on the vehicle before the sale would be completed.

“This way if they’re on the streets, which they’re not permitted to be doing, you’d be able to see the license plate, call it in, you could photograph it, and the police would be able to realize who the owner is,” he said.

He said ATV owners are supposed to register them but many don’t, and right now there is no system to keep track of what’s happening.

“This just really gives us the ability to make sure that they were purchased legally, that there’s a license plate that we can see, so we know who owns the vehicle, who’s operating it,” Guardian said.

He pointed out, “obviously law enforcement has a lot to do and can’t be real effective in trying to deal with 10, 15 ATVs at the same time.”

ATV trouble in other areas as well

Guardian said illegal ATV activity is also causing problems in the Pine Barrens and other sensitive environmental areas in the state, and his bill would make it easier for park police and rangers to track down offenders.

He noted the ATV license would not permit the vehicle to be operated on regular roads and streets, only in designated off-road areas.

The measure is expected to be formally introduced when the Legislature reconvenes in the fall.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at

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