SHERIFF'S CORNER: The three basic ORV road rules
Last year with the COVID issues, we saw a large increase in ORV traffic and complaints. This was partly due to more people coming up to ride not having anything else to do with the prohibitions that were put in place.
For this reason, I decided to work a majority of the summer weekends to help respond to these complaints. However, I learned a few things that I assumed most riders would know... the 3 basic rules. These rules are:
• The ORV speed limit on open county roads.
•Where to travel on open county roads.
• Where your trail stickers need to be placed on your ORV.
Well, unfortunately most riders do not know all of these. On average, a normal rider knows one of the three. I find the wrong placement of the trail stickers kind of funny because it clearly states on the back of the sticker exactly where to place it.
In this edition of the "Sheriff's Corner." I discuss the three basic ORV road rules.
So, there are actually two stickers — gwo stickers divided into two categories. An ORV License and an ORV Trail Permit. Let's define the two and when they are needed. (The below excerpts are taken from the DNR website).
• ORV License: Is required to ride eligible county roads, frozen surface of public waters, state forest roads (that are open to ORV use) and eligible national forest roads. A license is not required to operate on private lands. The fee will run you $26.25.
• ORV Trail Permit: Is required when operating on designated ORV Trail / Routes and special ORV-use areas. A trail permit is not required for private lands. ORV trail permits are not valid as a stand-alone license; an ORV license must also be purchased. This will run you $10.00.
In simple terms, you need the "license" for the road, and "both" to ride the trails.
So, what is the definition of an ORV?
"ORV" means a motor driven off road recreation vehicle capable of cross country travel without benefit of a road or trail, on or immediately over land, snow, ice, marsh, swampland, or other natural terrain.
ORV includes, but is not limited to, a multitrack or multiwheel drive vehicle, an ATV, a golf cart, a motorcycle or related 2-wheel, 3-wheel, or 4-wheel vehicle, an amphibious machine, a ground effect air cushion vehicle, or other means of transportation deriving from a source other than muscle or wind.
ORV does not include a registered snowmobile, a farm vehicle being used for farming, a vehicle used for military, fire, emergency, or law enforcement purposes, a vehicle owned by a utility company or an oil or gas company when performing maintenance on its facilities or on property over which it has an easement, a construction or logging vehicle used in the performance of its common function, or a registered aircraft.
OPERATION ON OPEN ROADS
An ORV meeting all of the following conditions may be operated on a designated road in the county:
a) At a speed of no more than 25 miles per hour, or a lower posted ORV speed limit.
b) By a person not less than 12 years of age.
c) With the flow of traffic.
d) In a manner which does not interfere with traffic on the road.
e) Traveling single file, except when overtaking and passing another ORV.
f) While displaying a lighted headlight and lighted taillight at all hours.
g) Each operator and passenger must wear a crash helmet and protective eyewear approved by the US DOT unless the vehicle is equipped with a windshield and a roof or roll bar that meets or exceeds standards for a crash helmet and the operator and each passenger is wearing a properly adjusted and fastened safety belt.
h) Unless equipped with a braking system that may be operated by hand or foot, capable of producing deceleration at 14 feet per second on level ground at a speed of 20 miles per hour; a brake light, brighter than the taillight, visible when the brake is activated to the rear of the vehicle when the vehicle is operated during the hours of 1/2 hour after sunset and 1/2 hour before sunrise; and a throttle so designed that when the pressure used to advance the throttle is removed, the engine speed will immediately and automatically return to idle.
i) While the ORV is equipped with a spark arrester type United States forest service approved muffler, in good working order and in constant operation.
j) Pursuant to noise emission standards defined by law.
k) The ORV shall be licensed by the DNR, and the ORV license/sticker shall be permanently attached and visibly displayed in the manner prescribed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources in accordance with State law.
WHERE TO RIDE ON OPEN ROADS
An ORV may be operated only on the far right on the "Maintained Portion" of a road on designated county roads. “Maintained Portion” of the road means the portion of the road improved, designated, or ordinarily used for vehicular traffic and does not include within its meaning the shoulder or right-of-way.
You cannot operate on the shoulder either completely or half-on/half-off. Pulling off to the shoulder to let a vehicle pass, is also not allowed. If you pull off to the shoulder, you must come to a complete stop.
PLATED OR STREET LEGAL VEHICLES
Have you ever noticed a regular truck or SUV with trail stickers on it? The bigger question is, does a plated street legal vehicle need trail stickers to ride the trails? I think some just get the stickers on their truck to look cool.
The short answer is, not always. Simply having a license plate allows you to travel on mixed-use ORV routes without stickers. However, if you are riding in a scramble area such as Silver Lake, then you would need the stickers.
The simple way to remember is to recognize the difference between an ORV "route" and an ORV "trail." Let me help answer these with some DNR questions and answers.
Q) What is the difference between a designated ORV route and a designated ORV trail?
A) A designated ORV route means any road that has been properly signed on the ground by the DNR for ORV use. A designated ORV trail means a path or way capable of travel by a 2- to 4-wheel vehicle not more than 50 inches in width and properly signed on the ground by the DNR for ORV use.
Q) My truck has a street license plate. Do I need an ORV license and trail permit to ride on designated ORV routes?
A) No. Neither an ORV license nor a trail permit is required to drive a street-licensed truck on designated ORV routes. If, however, the route is not passable by a conventional 2-wheel-drive passenger automobile designed for highway use, then the vehicle is being used as an ORV and requires both an ORV license and a trail permit.
Q) My truck has a street license plate. Do I need an ORV license or trail permit to drive on the frozen surface of public waters?
A) No. Neither an ORV license nor a trail permit is required to drive a street-licensed truck on the frozen surface of public waters.
Q) I have an off-road motorcycle with a street license plate. Do I need an ORV license or trail permit to ride on the frozen surface of public waters?
A) No. Neither an ORV license nor a trail permit is required to drive a street-licensed, off-road motorcycle on the frozen surface of public waters.
Q) I have an off-road motorcycle with a street license plate. Do I need an ORV license and trail permit to ride the designated ORV routes?
A) No. Neither an ORV license nor a trail permit is required to ride a street-licensed, off-road motorcycle on designated ORV routes. If, however, the route is not passable by a conventional 2-wheel drive passenger automobile designed for highway use, then the motorcycle is being used as an ORV and requires both the ORV license and trail permit.
Q) I have an off-road motorcycle with a street license plate. Do I need an ORV license and trail permit to ride the designated ORV trails?
A) Yes. Both a $26.25 ORV license and a $10 trail permit are needed when riding a street-licensed, off-road motorcycle on designated trails.
Q) Do I need an ORV license to ride my ORV on the frozen surface of public waters?
A) Yes. An ORV license is needed to ride an ORV on the frozen surface of public waters. If, however, the vehicle is street-licensed, then neither an ORV license nor a trail permit are required.
— This information is provided to you for clarification on specific laws, and not legal advice. This is not to be construed as a personal opinion, agreement or disagreement of any specific law. Topics covered are for educational and informational purposes only. As needed, excerpts from other articles are used for reference and/or content. If you have any questions on any specific topic, you may always email me your questions to email@example.com.