An ORV is defined as any motor vehicle that can be operated cross country without benefit of a road or trail over land, snow, and other natural terrain, and includes all of the following:
Multi track and multi wheeled vehicles, ATVs, motorcycles and related 2, 3, and 4 wheeled vehicles, amphibious machines (water to land and back), hovercraft, and any other vehicles that use mechanical power including 2 and 4 wheel drive vehicles that are highway registered, when operated off highways and roads.
ATVs are a subgroup of ORVs.
An ATV is defined as:
a 3 or 4 wheeled vehicle that is designated for off road use, that has low pressure (balloon type) tires, with a seat that is designated to be straddled by the operator, powered by an engine in size from 50 cc on up to 500 cc displacement.
There are specific exceptions from this list.
The following are NOT ORVs:
- registered snowmobiles
- farm vehicles when used in usual work practice
- construction vehicles when used in usual work practice
- logging vehicles when used in usual work practice
- military vehicles
- fire vehicles
- emergency vehicles
- law enforcement vehicles
Owners of ORVs are required to:
obtain a title for a ORV through the Secretary of State (SOS);
(note: a Michigan title is NOT required on non resident ORVs used in Michigan)
license the ORV with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Every ORV sold through a dealer will be accompanied by a certificate of origin. This certificate of origin contains all the information needed for applying for a certificate of title and an ORV license. The application for a title is made to SOS, and the fee for processing is $11.00. When an ORV is purchased through a dealer, application for title will be made by the dealer on behalf of the buyer. Application for a title must be made within 15 days of purchase by:
Any time an ORV is sold to another person, the certificate of title must also be transferred to the buyer. It is unlawful to:
The DNR will license all ORVs on a annual basis.
Fee will be: $ 16.25 beginning April 1, 1996 and thereafter.
Licenses are valid from April 1 through March 31 of the following year, regardless of the date of purchase. Vehicles licensed under the Motor Vehicle Code as street vehicles require an ORV license only at such time as they are being used as a ORV. A "street licensed" vehicle does not need an ORV license to use forest roads, but will if used on designated trails and if used in designated areas for cross country use.
NOTE - an ORV license is NOT required for street licensed vehicles used on the frozen surface of public waters.
Private land owners and invited guests are not required to license ORVs operated exclusively on their private property. Licensing is required of both resident and non resident ORVs used in areas open to public operation.
ORV licenses are available from the DNR by mail, at selected DNR offices, and through participating ORV dealers and participating hunting and fishing license agents. Dealers may purchase licenses from the DNR for resale to ORV buyers.
For purchase by mail, contact:
Michigan Department of Natural Resources
License Control - ORV
Lansing, MI 48909
Telephone (517) 335-3272
It is unlawful to operate an ORV without having a valid license permanently attached and visibly displayed on the vehicle in the following manner:
Before an ORV may be operated on any property, the operator is responsible for the following equipment requirements;
A. ORV operators and all passengers must wear a US DOT approved crash helmet and protective eyewear or goggles EXCEPT when the ORV is equipped with an approved roof AND the operator and passengers are wearing properly adjusted and fastened seat belts.
b. The ORV must have:
- a lighted headlight; - a lighted tail light, - a brake light, brighter than the tail light.
Other equipment that is highly recommended for operators and passengers is:
Visual supervision: is defined as having direct observation with the unaided eye and the ability to come to immediate aid of another ORV operator.
Restrictions are in effect on the operation of ORVs by children under the age of 16. There are also specific obligations that fall upon the parents or legal guardians of ORV riders under the age of 16, and upon the owners of ORVs.
A. No person under the age of 16 may operate any 3 wheeled ATV.
B. No child under the age of 10 may operate any 4 wheeled ATV, EXCEPT on private land while performing farm related work operations.
C. Children who are 10 and 11 years old may operate 4 wheel ATVs only when ALL of the following conditions exist:
- must be on land owned by the child's parent or guardian;
- must be under visual supervision (see definition above) of a adult;
- must possess a valid ORV safety certificate.*
D. Children who are 12 - 15 years old may operate 4 wheeled ATVs only when BOTH of the following conditions exist:
- must be under visual supervision of an adult
- must possess a valid ORV safety certificate *
E. Children under 16 may operate other ORVs (trail bikes, for example) only when BOTH of the following conditions exist;
- must be under visual supervision of an adult,
- must possess a valid ORV safety certificate *
F. No child under the age of 12 may cross any street, highway or county road while operating an ORV.
G. Children who are at least 12 years old may cross streets and roads (only at right angles).
The parents and legal guardians of a child under the age of 16 are legally responsible if they permit the child under their care to violate any of the above. The owner (or person in control) of an ORV is also responsible if his or her ORV is operated by a youngster.
* The Michigan Department of Education (DOE) is responsible for developing and making available ORV courses for youthful operators. Recent legislation mandates that beginning March 1, 1996, all ORV operators under the age of 16 will be required to possess a valid safety training certificate when operating a ORV.
ORV safety training should be considered a "must" for all ORV operators. The dynamics or ORVs (especially ATVs) while in motion can be deceiving, and the sharing of forest roads with natural hazards and other vehicles can present some sudden decisions to the ORV operator.
The Michigan Department of Education (DOE) administers the ORV safety training and certification program.
The ORV safety training program includes hands on instruction in safe and responsible ORV operation, familiarization with regulations and a written exam. It may also include a driver / operator competency exam.
All operators less than 16 are required to have a ORV safety certificate on his or her person, available to present upon demand of a law enforcement officer.
Indiscriminate ORV use has damaged fragile ecosystems on both public and private lands. Complaints of erosion on hills and trails, destruction of stream banks and beds, and conflicts with other users have led to more restrictive rules to control ORV abuses. For the future of their sport, as well as the future of the resource, ORV users must not only know and closely follow the operating regulations, but also encourage others to do likewise. Violations of these and other rules should be reported immediately to the nearest DNR office, or to the DNR Law Enforcement "Report All Poaching" hotline: 1-800-292-7800
The DNR administers over 4 million acres of land for a variety of purposes. Wise use of those lands include preserving natural features and wildlife habitat, and encouraging a variety of recreational uses. Just as other users are limited in their activities to protect and conserve these vital resources while minimizing conflicts with other activities, ORV enthusiasts are restricted in where and how they may operate.
"Forest Road" Forest roads are hard surfaced roads, gravel and dirt roads, and other routes that can be traveled by a conventional 2 wheel drive vehicle designed for highway use (passenger car), including fire lanes and logging roads. "Forest road" does NOT include any state, federal, or county highways or roads. In general, forest road means a road OTHER THAN COUNTY OR STATE ROAD that the family car can operate on without assistance.
"Designated" means posted OPEN for ORV use with appropriate signs.
"Designated Route" means a forest or county road which has been signed for ORV use by the DNR. For ORVs of all sizes. Either ORV or SOS conventional licensing is required.
"Designated Area" means an area that is signed for cross country ORV use by the DNR. ORV license is required.
"Forest Trail" Forest trails are designated paths or ways that can only be traveled by vehicles that are less than 50" in width. ORV license is required.
State Parks and State Recreation Areas, administered by the Parks and Recreation Division, with posted (signed) boundaries identifying them as such.
ORV operation is prohibited, except in designated areas of Silver Lake State Park.
State Game Areas, managed by Wildlife Division, with posted boundaries identifying them;
ALL motorized vehicle operation is prohibited except on established roads open to the public. ORVs are specifically prohibited. These are primarily found in the southern third of Michigan.
State Forest Lands, generally administered by Forest Management Division, boundaries not normally marked.
ORV operation is permitted on designated trails and forest roads in the Upper Peninsula unless posted closed
In the Lower Peninsula, ORV operation is permitted on all "Designated Trails", "Designated Areas" and "Designated Routes" (Forest Roads which are posted open).
ORV use on designated trails is limited to vehicles 50 inches or less in width. Off trail or off route operation outside of a designated area is prohibited except for licensed hunters to remove deer, bear and elk at speeds of 5mph or less.
Cross country ORV operation on state owned lands in permitted only on designated areas at Silver Lake State Park in Oceana County, at the St. Helen Motor sport Area in Roscommon County and Black Mountain designated area in Cheboygan and Presque Isle Counties. (Black Mountain designated area is restricted to ORVs 50" or less in width) Other designated areas may be developed in the future.
The Huron Manistee National Forest ORV policy is "closed unless posted open" for all riders on all trails. Motorized vehicles that are licensed as ORVs can operate on trails, roads and areas which are designated and signed for their use. All National Forest roads are open to all "street legal" vehicles, unless posted closed.
Contact the Huron Manistee National Forest for more information at 1-800-821-6263
On the Hiawatha National Forest, all roads marked with a vertically numbered sign are open to ORV use unless posted closed. All roads marked with a horizontally numbered sign post are closed unless posted open.
Contact the Hiawatha National Forest for specific areas closed to ORV use, maps and additional information at 1-906-786-4062.
On the Ottawa National Forest, all roads marked with a vertically numbered sign post are open to ORV use unless posted closed. All roads marked with a horizontally numbered sign post are closed unless posted open. All trails are open to ORV use except for designated wilderness and semi private non motorized areas, designated footpath only trail systems and other areas posted closed.
Contact the Ottawa National Forest for information and special management area restrictions at 1-906-932-1330.
Roads, streets and highways maintained for year round automobile travel are closed to ORV operation, including the shoulder and right of way (entire width between boundary lines of public ways maintained for vehicular travel). However, ORVs registered as motor vehicles by the Secretary of State may be operated on the roadway. (See County Ordinance link above)
An ORV NOT licensed for highway use may not be operated on the roadway, shoulder or right of way of a state, federal or county road. (See County Ordinance link above)
Private land is closed to ORV operation except for the landowner, and invited guests with permission.
The failure of a landowner to post or fence private property against ORV use does NOT imply consent to ORV operation.
ORV operation is permitted on the ice of public waters, but an ORV may not be operated within 100' of:
the ORV is being operated at the minimum speed necessary for controlled forward movement.
An ORV may not be operated in a manner that creates an erosive condition. Michigan's soils and shorelines are fragile, and ORV operation in these areas and along stream banks and other waterways is restricted. It is unlawful to operate any ORV in or on the waters of any stream, river, marsh, bog, wetland or quagmire.
The operator of an ORV involved in an accident resulting in injury to a person must stop immediately at the scene and render assistance.
The operator of an ORV involved in an accident resulting in injury to a person or in property damage in an estimated amount of $100.00 or more must immediately notify the State Police or Sheriff's Office of the county in which the accident occurred for completion of the accident report required by law.
Criminal penalties can range from a minimum of $ 50 to a maximum of $ 1,000 plus imprisonment up to 90 days. Civil penalties can range up to $ 500. Persons may be held responsible for damage caused by their ORV and ordered to restore such damaged property to the original condition. Additional penalties for operating an ORV under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances can be imposed which are more severe. Serious criminal violations may also result in seizure and condemnation of the ORV.
Persons who have been issued either a SOS handicap license plate or placard, a DNR permit to hunt from a standing vehicle or who possess a completed DNR affidavit certifying the individual is handicapped (must be countersigned by a licensed physician.) may operate a licensed ORV on state forest roads and on designated trails. Such persons are exempt from the quit hours during the November firearm season if using their ORV in conjunction with hunting or fishing. The ORV handicap affidavits and hunt from standing vehicle permits must be available for inspection by a law enforcement officer. Permit applications and affidavits are available from various DNR offices.
Excessive noise is a common complaint made against ORV users. All ORVs must have, in good working condition and in constant use, a muffler which will meet or exceed all sound emission standards set by state law. Exhaust noise shall not exceed 99 Db(A) or 94 Db(A) on vehicles manufactured after January 1, 1986 when tested according to the provisions of the SAE J1287, June 86 test. Users should replace all worn or damaged exhaust systems with a quality muffler. (Moto cross motorcycles are designated for closed course competition and not for recreational riding. These vehicles must be modified before operating on public trails, routes or land.)
ORV riding, like any other activity involving a motor vehicle, demands the full attention of the operator. This is reflected in the rules regarding alcohol use while operating an ORV, which are virtually identical to the laws regarding alcohol in the motor vehicle code. Open containers of alcoholic beverages may not be transported in or upon an ORV unless in a trunk or compartment separate from the passenger compartment of the vehicle. An ORV operator is considered to have given implied consent to chemical tests of blood, breath or urine for blood alcohol levels, and a statutory presumption of intoxication exists for a person with a blood alcohol level of 0.10 grams or more per 100 milliliters of blood, per 210 liters of breath, or per 67 milliliters of urine.
An ORV operator must stop upon signal of a law enforcement officer.
On private property, an ORV operator must stop upon signal of a landowner.
In addition to restrictions on state owned lands and other violations previously noted, the following acts are unlawful anywhere in the state, except as noted.
ORV operation is prohibited:
- in any forest nursery or planting area;
- on a DNR dedicated natural area;
- in any area in a manner to injure, damage or destroy crops or trees;
- in any area in a manner so as to create an erosive condition;
- within 100' of a dwelling at a speed greater than the minimum speed necessary for controlled forward movement, except
- on private property;
- on designated routes, trails, areas or access routes;
- on lands of another without permission;
- within 100' of a slide, ski, or skating area;
- on a DNR designated snowmobile trail located in the Lower Peninsula unless it is also designated for ORV use.
- on any operational or non abandoned railroad right of way (except to cross at designated railroad crossing);
- in or upon the waters of any stream, river, bog, wetland, marsh or quagmire;
- in public hunting areas during the November firearm deer season, between the hours of 7:00 am and 11:00 am, and 2:00 pm and 5:00 pm, except for:
- going to or from a residence or hunting camp that is inaccessible a conventional vehicle (subject to state land regulations);
- on private property, with landowner's permission;
- passenger vehicles while being operated on roads capable of sustaining automobile traffic;
- a person holding a Permit to Hunt from a Standing Vehicle or other persons meeting disabled requirements while engaged in hunting or fishing activity.
- on any public highway, street, or right of way, except; (See County Ordinance link above)
- to cross at right angles, after a complete stop (not on limited access freeways);
- for ORVs also registered as motor vehicles under the Michigan Vehicle Code;
- in a special event held under a government permit.
- at a rate of speed greater than that which is reasonable and proper;
- in a careless manner without due regard for existing conditions;
- in a manner to leave litter or debris;
- in hunting, pursuing or worrying any animal;
- while transporting a strung, uncased bow, or an uncased or loaded firearm;
- while transporting or possessing an alcoholic beverage that is open or uncapped (seal has been broken)
- while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance;
- while visibly impaired due to alcohol or a controlled substance;
- while transporting a passenger without a seat as designed by the manufacturer;
- while under a court suspension of ORV operating rights;
- on any unlicensed ORV.
Minimum ages for ORV / ATV operation are the results of an extensive review by the Michigan Legislature. The hearing process caused everyone to focus on the alarming statistics regarding young riders. Statistics show that in 41 percent of the deaths the victim was under the age of 16 years of age. Additionally, other young victims were left paralyzed, brain damaged or with other serious permanent injuries. Most of the accidents involving young riders could be traced to a number of factors, i.e.; lack of supervision; machine design characteristics; and lack of training. Some parents appeared to be unaware of many of these hazards. The consequences of a few daring moments on a ATV can be devastating as evidenced by the accident data.
Preserving and enhancing public safety in the field of outdoor recreation is of paramount importance. Recognizing that there are potential safety hazards in off road vehicle riding, the legislature has enacted regulations which directly affect:
There are certain responsibilities that come with the ownership and operation of an ORV. Adults bear the burdens of passing on responsible conservation and outdoor ethics to young operators under their supervision, and setting the example for all other ORV enthusiasts. It is important to consider the potential impact of ORVs on Michigan's fragile environment, and to operate ORVs in a manner that minimizes conflicts with others who are enjoying the fields and forests of the state.
Michigan's law enforcement officers will play an important role in ensuring ORV recreational opportunities are available for safe and responsible users. They accomplish this through aggressive enforcement and a continued willingness to respond to public concerns. They are an important bridge between the ORV users and the non riding public. Use them and assist them to ensure the future of ORV recreation.
As an Off Road Vehicle user, it is your responsibility to "TREAD LIGHTLY" and to protect Michigan's fragile environment.
Michigan's public Off Road Vehicle (ORV) trails offer thousands of miles of single and double track riding opportunity. These trails are lightly groomed and riders are likely to encounter narrow sand trails, rough mogul, steep hills, stumps, rocks, brush, loose surfaces and other hazards.
Michigan ORV trails and routes are designed for two way travel. Users need to always be alert for on coming traffic. Single track trails are designated for motorcycles and ATVs and are recommended for ADVANCED RIDERS ONLY. Be alert at all times when riding on designated routes for other vehicles including automobiles and trucks. Drivers of larger vehicles, all too often, fail to notice smaller motorcycles and ATVs.
Always make sure your ORV is in good operating condition. Check gas level before riding. In an hour, riders can travel farther than they can walk in eight. Don't forget your tools, trail maps, a first aid kit and a compass. Always ride with a companion. Know your local emergency telephone numbers before you ride.
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