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New ORV Legislation Signed Into Law for 2014

Five new bills were signed into law late in 2013 which will affect ORV operators in Michigan. The following are excerpts from each Bill, just as they were enacted. Please read through each one and familiarize yourselves with these important new laws. Watch this website and your Great Lakes TrailRider Magazine for updates as more information becomes available.

Public Act No. 75 of 2013, Approved by the Governor, June 25, 2013, Filed with the Secretary of State June 25, 2013, EFFECTIVE DATE: June 25, 2013, STATE OF MICHIGAN, 97TH LEGISLATURE, REGULAR SESSION OF 2013, Introduced by Rep. Bumstead, ENROLLED HOUSE BILL No. 4669.

AN ACT to amend 1994 PA 451, entitled “An act to protect the environment and natural resources of the state; to codify, revise, consolidate, and classify laws relating to the environment and natural resources of the state; to regulate the discharge of certain substances into the environment; to regulate the use of certain lands, waters, and other natural resources of the state; to protect the people’s right to hunt and fish; to prescribe the powers and duties of certain state and local agencies and officials; to provide for certain charges, fees, assessments, and donations; to provide certain appropriations; to prescribe penalties and provide remedies; and to repeal acts and parts of acts,” by amending section 81116 (MCL 324.81116), as amended by 2012 PA 28.
The People of the State of Michigan enact:
Sec. 81116. (1) The owner of an ORV requiring licensure under this part shall file an application for a license with the department or a dealer on forms provided by the department. If an ORV is sold by a dealer, the application for a license shall be submitted to the department by the dealer in the name of the owner. The application shall include a certification. The owner of the vehicle shall sign the application or, if the application is filed electronically, provide information requested by the department to verify the owner’s identity. The application shall be accompanied by a fee as provided in subsection (2). A person shall not file an application for a license that contains false information. Upon receipt of the application in approved form and upon payment of the appropriate fee, the department or dealer shall issue to the applicant a license which is valid for the 12-month period for which it is issued. A license shall be issued for the 12-month period beginning April 1 and ending March 31 each year.
(2) The fee for a license is as follows:
(a) For a license valid for the 12-month period beginning April 1, 2013, $16.25.
(b) For a license valid for a 12-month period beginning April 1, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, or 2018 and that does not authorize operation of the ORV on state ORV trails, $26.25.
(c) For a license valid for a 12-month period beginning April 1, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, or 2018 and that authorizes operation of the ORV on state ORV trails, $36.25.
(d) For a license valid for a 12-month period beginning April 1, 2019 or a subsequent April 1, no fee.
(3) Dealers may purchase from the department ORV licenses for resale to owners of vehicles requiring licensure under this part. The department shall refund to dealers the purchase price of any ORV licenses returned within 90 days after the end of the 12-month period for which they were valid. A dealer shall maintain and provide to the department records of ORV license sales on forms provided by the department. In addition to the sale of ORV licenses, a dealer engaged in the sale, lease, or rental of ORVs as a regular business may sell any other license or permit authorized by the department to be sold by other dealers under the statutes of this state.
(4) The license shall be permanently attached to the vehicle in the manner prescribed and in the location designated by the department before the vehicle may legally be operated in accordance with this part.
(5) If at the time of sale the purchaser certifies on a form provided by the department that the purchased vehicle otherwise requiring a license under this part will be used and stored outside of this state and will not be returned by the purchaser to this state for use, then a license is not required.
(6) If a license acquired by the owner of an ORV is lost or destroyed, the department shall provide that person with a replacement license free of charge. The department may require a person requesting a replacement license to supply sufficient evidence of the loss or destruction of the original license.

Public Act No. 117 of 2013, Major Changes, Approved by the Governor, September 25, 2013, Filed with the Secretary of State September 25, 2013, EFFECTIVE DATE: September 25, 2013, STATE OF MICHIGAN 97TH LEGISLATURE REGULAR SESSION OF 2013, Introduced by Rep. Johnson.

Establishes criteria and deadlines for MDOT’s consideration of these requests. The bill also lets the department decide whether to allow ORV shoulder riding on designated highways (not including interstates), and establishes criteria for designating highways.

The Cycle Conservation Club of Michigan supports the counties/state having the option to open “M” roads on a limited, case-by-case and temporary basis. Safety and cost vs. return must also be a consideration. When possible, we should continue to look for opportunities for relocation of these routes into the woods. We further believe that when they are not connecting the ORV trails/routes; the local community should pay all costs involved.

Public Act No. 118 of 2013 - Major Changes
Approved by the Governor, September 25, 2013, Filed with the Secretary of State September 25, 2013, EFFECTIVE DATE: September 25, 2013, STATE OF MICHIGAN 97TH LEGISLATURE REGULAR SESSION OF 2013, Introduced by Reps. Bumstead, Genetski and Franz

This Bill allows all 83 counties to seek ORV access. Formally only select Counties in Northern Michigan had the privilege. The bill also contains numerous requirements for safe operation of ORVs, including considering ORV operators negligent if involved in an accident with a traditional road vehicle.

In 2013, the Michigan Legislature passed Public Act 118 giving ALL Michigan counties the option to open designated roads to ORV use. As of this writing, not all eligible counties or municipalities have adopted an ordinance and there may be differences where they have been adopted. The Cycle Conservation Club of Michigan recommends that you contact local law enforcement (Most Counties now have their own maps) to determine if an ordinance has been enacted, which county roads may be open, and if there are other limits in the ordinance to ORV operation.

Public Act No. 119
of 2013, Approved by the Governor September 25, 2013, Major Changes, Filed with the Secretary of State September 25, 2013, EFFECTIVE DATE: September 25, 2013, STATE OF MICHIGAN 97TH LEGISLATURE REGULAR SESSION OF 2013, Introduced by Senator Casperson.

Expands the current list of activities where and ORV license is not required, provides interstate reciprocity, allows the Department of Natural Resources to establish free riding days, and allows the Department to exempt certain events from needing a permit.
1 c) The ORV is being operated on a free ORV-riding day. The department shall designate as free ORV-riding days each year a Saturday and the following Sunday that are also designated as free fishing days under section 43534. In addition, the department may designate 1 other day or 2 other consecutive days each year as free ORV-riding days. A person operating an unlicensed ORV during a free ORV-riding day has the same privileges and is subject to the same rules and regulations as a person operating an ORV licensed as required under subsection (1).
d) If and to the extent the department waives the requirement pursuant to a reciprocal agreement with another state.
(3) The department is authorized to enter a reciprocal agreement described in subsection (2)(d).
(2) The department shall not require a permit under this part merely for organized group recreational ORV riding on department lands, or for an ORV event on the frozen surface of public waters, if conducted in compliance with applicable statutes, rules, and orders. Within 90 days after the effective date of the amendatory act from the 2013-2014 legislative session that added this subsection, the department shall develop and establish, in consultation with representatives of the Michigan snowmobile and trails advisory committee and other interested parties, policy criteria for determining circumstances under which notice to the department or a permit is required for ORV events on department lands.
(3) In a court action in this state if competent evidence demonstrates that a vehicle that is permitted to operate on a highway pursuant to the code is in a collision on a roadway with an ORV that is not registered under the code, the operator of the ORV involved in the collision shall be considered prima facie negligent.
(2) Each person who participates in the sport of ORV riding accepts the risks associated with that sport insofar as the dangers are inherent. Those risks include, but are not limited to, injuries to persons or property that can result from variations in terrain; defects in traffic lanes; surface or subsurface snow or ice conditions; bare spots; rocks, trees, and other forms of natural growth or debris; and collisions with fill material, decks, bridges, signs, fences, trail maintenance equipment, or other ORVs. Those risks do not include injuries to persons or property that result from the use of an ORV by another person in a careless or negligent manner likely to endanger person or property. When an ORV is operated in the vicinity of a railroad right-of-way, each person who participates in the sport of ORV riding additionally assumes risks including, but not limited to, entanglement with railroad tracks, switches, and ties and collisions with trains and train-related equipment and facilities.

PA 249 of 2013 (aka: The Polaris Bill)
· Prohibit a person from operating an off-road recreation vehicle (ORV) wider than 50 inches on a
forest trail, and delete a provision that limits the maximum width of a vehicle on a forest trail to
less than 50 inches.
· Refer to an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) with four or more wheels, rather than a four-wheeled ATV,
in provisions regarding the operation of an ATV by a child under the age of 12.
· NOTE: Currently, “forest trail” means a designated path or way capable of travel only by a
vehicle less than 50 inches wide. Under the bill, the term would mean a designated path or way
that is not a route. “Route” means a forest road or other road that is designated for purposes of
Part 811 by the Department of Natural Resources.

Public Act 240 Information

Specific rules from county to county may vary. It is every ORV user's responsibility to know the date of implementation, which roads may be open to ORV travel, ORV speed limits or other details associated with each county and their respective ordinances. GET LOCAL INFORMATION BEFORE RIDING!


Now that Public Act 240 is law, does that mean I can now operate an ORV on the road?

No. You may not operate your ORV on a public street or road until your county, city, village or township adopts an ordinance allowing it.

What roads are covered?

County and municipal roads and streets. State and federal highways, roads and trails are not included.

What counties may open their roads to ORVs?

Only counties in the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula may open their roads to ORVs. This includes Mason, Lake, Osceola, Clare, Gladwin, Arenac, Bay and any county to the north of those counties. Roughly, this is any county including or north of M-10. Huron, Midland and Isabella are not included.

Are existing county ORV ordinances still valid?

The law providing for access routes established with the consent of the DNR or unilaterally established by some counties is repealed. Consequently, local governments must re-adopt ordinances under the new law if they wish to provide for the operation of ORVs on their roads or streets.

Does the bill include golf carts?



What is the process for adopting a county ORV ordinance?

The county clerk must send notice of a public hearing on a proposed ordinance by certified mail to the county road commission and to the DNR (only is state forestland is located in the county) at least 45 days before the public hearing held by the county board of commissioners. However, the county board of commissioners is not obligated to abide by any recommendation of the county road commission or the DNR in adopting an ordinance.

What authority does the county road commission have?

A county road commission may close up to 30% of the linear miles of roads in the county to ORVs in response to a particular and demonstrable threat to public safety or to protect the environment. The 30% applies to the total linear miles of county roads, not 30% of the linear miles of roads open to ORVs.

What authority do cities, villages and townships have?

A city or village may open or close its streets to ORVs at any time. No notification to other agencies or units of government is required. A township may close its streets or roads to the operation of ORVs that were opened by the township or county at any time with no notification to other agencies or units of government. If the county does not adopt an ORV ordinance including a particular township, that township may adopt its own ORV ordinance no sooner than 1 year following the effective date of the act. Notification is the same as required of the county except that the notification period is shortened to 30 days.

What liability do local governments have?

Local governments do not have a duty to maintain roads or streets in a condition safe and convenient for the operation of ORVs except as otherwise required by law. Local governments are immune from tort liability except for gross negligence (conduct so reckless as to demonstrate a substantial lack of concern for whether an injury results).

What is the ORV fund?

The treasurer of the local unit of government adopting an ORV ordinance shall establish a fund to receive fines and damages imposed as a result of violations of the ordinance. The legislative body of that local unit shall appropriate 50% of the revenue in the fund to the county sheriff or local police department for ORV enforcement and training. The legislative body of that local unit shall appropriate the remaining 50% to the county road commission or local public works office (city and village only) for repairing damage to the environment, roads, streets or other public property caused by ORVs and/or to post signs indicating ORV speed limits or whether a road or street is open or closed to ORVs.


What are the general operating standards?

Operation must be to the far right of the maintained portion of the road or street. An ORV may not be operated against the flow of traffic. The maximum speed of operation is 25 mph unless a lower speed limit has been posted. An ORV may not interfere with other traffic on the road or street. ORVs must travel single file except when passing.

Are headlights/taillights required to operate an ORV on a road or street?

Prior to January 1, 2010 a person must display a lighted headlight and taillight when visibility is reduced. Beginning January 1, 2010, any ORV operating on the road at any time must display a lighted headlight and taillight.

What are the permitted hours of operation?

Operation is permitted at all hours. A lighted headlight and taillight must be used from 1/2 hour after sunset to 1/2 hour before sunrise.

How old does a child have to be to operate an ORV on a road?

A person under age 12 may not operate an ORV on a street or road. A child age 12, 13, 14 and 15 may operate an ORV on a road under the direct visual supervision of an adult and has in their immediate possession and ORV safety certificate. Children younger than 16 may not operate a 3-wheeled ORV or an ORV wider than 60" on a road. A child age 16 or 17 may operate without direct visual supervision provided they have a valid drivers license and an ORV safety certificate in their possession. Michigan will recognize an ORV safety certificate issued by other state or a province of Canada.

Who is at fault in the event of an accident?

In the event an ORV is in an accident with another vehicle legally permitted to operate on the road or street, the owner of the ORV shall be considered prima facia negligent. The owner of an ORV does not qualify for no-fault/PIP benefits in the event of a single vehicle accident or an accident with another ORV.

What is the penalty for violating an ORV ordinance?

The penalty is a municipal civil infraction with a fine of not more than $500 and/or damages to repair any damage to the environment, street, road or other public property. The fine and damages shall be deposited into a local ORV fund.

What is the penalty for creating an erosive condition or violating state environmental law?

The penalty is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 90 days and/or a fine of not less than $250 or more than $1000 for each violation.