Know the rules and your vehicle before heading out
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reminds off-road vehicle enthusiasts to learn riding and safety rules before taking to the trails.
“The arrival of spring means countless ORV enthusiasts are preparing to hit the trails,” said Cpl. John Morey, head of the DNR Law Enforcement Division’s ORV safety education program. “But there’s a lot to know when it comes to riding legally and safely. ORV riding is a great sport. Enjoy it to its fullest by understanding the laws, knowing your vehicle, being respectful of others and always putting safety first.”
Riders under the age of 16 must have a valid safety training certificate when operating an ORV. To obtain a certificate, the operator must take an ORV safety education course and pass the certification exam. Students have the option of taking an online or classroom-based course. Operators must carry their certificate on their person and present it to a law enforcement officer upon request.
“We encourage all new riders to take a safety class even if they are exempt from the age requirement,” Morey said. “ORVs are fun but they are not toys. They are built primarily for off-road recreation and can be dangerous if you don’t understand your vehicle or know proper riding procedures.”
All operators and passengers must wear a U.S. Department of Transportation-approved crash helmet and protective eyewear, except in specific circumstances defined by law.
Open containers of alcoholic beverages may not be transported in or upon an ORV unless in a trunk or compartment separate from the vehicle’s passenger compartment.
Roads, streets and highways maintained for year-round automobile travel are closed to ORVs, including the shoulder and right of way. However, ORVs registered as motor vehicles by the Secretary of State may be operated on the roadway.
ORVs may be operated on a roadway in accordance with a locally enacted ordinance. Riders are responsible for contacting local authorities to find out which roads are open to ORV use.
Private land is closed to ORVs unless the operator is invited by the landowner.
It is unlawful to operate an ORV in or on the waters of any stream, river, marsh, bog, wetland, swamp or quagmire unless the vehicle is driven on a ridge, culvert or similar structure.
Morey offered general safety and riding tips as well:
Be sure your vehicle is in good mechanical condition.
Familiarize yourself with your ORV by reading the owner’s manual.
Wear protective clothing suitable for the environment.
Make sure the lights work properly and are on during operation.
Never ride under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or when fatigued.
Know the terrain where you plan to ride.
Be aware of the weather forecast and never venture out alone.
Prepare for emergencies by packing first-aid and survival kits. Useful items include a map and compass, high-energy food such as candy bars, a flashlight, hand axe, signal flares, waterproof matches, mobile phone and a tarpaulin.
Respect any people or animals you encounter.
Be courteous on the trail and follow proper etiquette. This includes riding only where permitted, always yielding to uphill traffic, slowing down when someone is passing you, yielding the right of way to bikes, horses and hikers; carrying out what you carry in, and being considerate of others on the trail by keeping your vehicle to the right.
Report any illegal riding activity by calling or texting the Report All Poaching (RAP) line at 1-800-292-7800.
ORV owners must have their vehicles titled through the Secretary of State. A Michigan title is not required on ORVs owned by nonresidents and used in Michigan.
ORVs must be licensed by the DNR if they are used anywhere other than private property. The annual licensing fee is $26.25. In addition, an ORV trail permit is required to operate on state-designated ORV trails, routes or areas. The cost of an ORV trail permit is $10.
The DNR is working with stakeholders to map forest roads on public lands in accordance with Public Act 288 of 2016. The initiative encourages more people to enjoy Michigan’s public lands by enhancing ORV opportunities across the state. It will open thousands of miles of forest roads to ORV use unless the roads are designated closed by the DNR for reasons such as safety or environmental concerns. Learn more at www.michigan.gov/forestroads.
Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers encourage off-road vehicle riders to make sure they’re ready before hitting the trails. This means understanding the laws, knowing your vehicle, being respectful of others and always putting safety first. ORV operators under the age of 16 must possess a valid safety training certificate.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.