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Is it legal to ride my golf cart or ORV on the road?

Frequently asked questions about off road vehicles (ORVs)

Is it legal to drive golf cart on road

Happy Memorial Day everyone. I recently wrote about safe driving tips for off road vehicles (ORVs). Today, it’s likely that many Michigan residents will be enjoying the holiday by taking a spin on their golf carts and ORVs.

This post addresses a few of the questions I’ve received since my last post, and also from my earlier post on ORVs here. Most of the questions I’ve received have been from other Michigan lawyers asking me about what happens if you’re in an accident with a car involving an ORV.  I’ve also received a few reader e-mails about how to ride an off road vehicle according to Michigan law, such as: Can you ride on the road without receiving a ticket?

Here are some of the questions:

Q:  My husband saw on the news last night that golf carts were allowed on the county roads in the state of Michigan. That can’t be true?
A: In late 2006, the Michigan Legislature amended MCL 257.25b and modified the definition of a low speed vehicle to conform to federal standards. As now defined, a low speed vehicle means a four-wheeled motor vehicle whose speed attainable in one mile is more than 20 mph but not more than 25 mph on a paved level surface.

A low speed vehicle must be equipped as necessary under both federal standards and Michigan law.

The operator must have a driver license and the vehicle must be registered and insured.

If the golf cart (or other off road vehicle) is not equipped as required,  it can only be legally operated on a highway, (including the right-of-way) in the state of Michigan under very strict circumstances. In those situations, it would be defined as an ORV found in MCL 324.81101 and circumstances allowing operation on a highway while severely limited can be found in the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, MCL 324.81122.

Local municipalities can also authorize situations where an ORV can be operated on a highway within their jurisdiction. MCL 324.81131 defines those situations. So, for example, I’ve had a few cases involving people up at cottages up north injured in ORV accidents with cars, and I always have to check the local laws to see if there are special ordinances allowing or not allowing use of the off road vehicle.

Q. I have a Polaris Ranger, can I operate it on the road?
A. A number of questions have been received concerning use of motor vehicles on public roads that are arguably  designed and manufactured, as well as marketed, as off-road vehicles. As a result, the state of Michigan published Traffic Services Section Field Update #21 that discusses this question in depth.

Readers must be aware that if they retro-fit an ORV and make false statements, or provide false information to law enforcement or the Michigan Department of State when having the vehicle inspected, and as a result improperly register the vehicle, they can be charged with a violation.

Helpful resources on ORV Laws

Below are some resources designed to help drivers understand the laws regarding off road vehicles in Michigan:

Handbook of Michigan Off-Road Vehicle Laws  provides important safety tips and advice before you start riding.

Michigan Dept of Natural Resources ORV/ATV Riding  contains links to ORV trail maps throughout Michigan as well as links to state laws and safety resources.

Find a Michigan ORV Safety Class in your area.

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