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Safe driving tips for ORV (Off Road Vehicle) driving

March 26, 2013 by Steven M. Gursten

And what is the law if you are injured in an ORV accident in Michigan?

ORV safety

For many people in Michigan, especially those who live near lakes, spring means a chance to get outdoors and start enjoying those ATVs, mopeds, golf carts and other off road vehicles (ORVs).

These are extremely popular choices in Michigan.  Yet most of the people who buy these ORVs  have no idea how the law works with these recreational vehicles.

Sadly, as Michigan accident lawyers, we also see far too many injuries and even deaths from improper use of ORVs, confusion about how traffic laws apply to these vehicles, and how many drivers of cars and trucks fail to see people on ORVs.  Today, I’m covering ORV safety in this blog and your legal rights, including how you are protected in the event of an ORV injury or accident.

First, what is an ORV?

According to michigan.gov, 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),
  • Hovercrafts,
  • Any other vehicles that use mechanical power, including 2- and 4-wheel drive vehicles that are highway registered, when operated off highways and roads.

What ORV owners are required to do under Michigan law – title and license requirements

  1. Obtain a title for an ORV through the Secretary of State (SOS); NOTE — a Michigan title is NOT required on nonresident ORVs used in Michigan.
  2. License the ORV with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Using ORVs on private property, and your safety gear

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 nonresident ORVs used in areas open to public operation.

Before an ORV may be operated on any property, ORV operators and all passengers must wear a U.S. DOT approved crash helmet AND protective eye wear or goggles.

Exception: You do not have to wear the crash helmet and goggles when the ORV is equipped with an approved roof and the operator and passengers are wearing properly adjusted and fastened safety belts.

Injuries from ORV accidents

According to the Michigan Traffic Crash Facts website, in 2011, here are the most harmful events:

Overturn: The most harmful event that did not involve a collision for an ORV or ATV was an overturn.

Collision with a car: Of all crashes that involved a collision, the most harmful event was a collision with a motor vehicle.

Speeding: The hazardous action that caused the most ORV/ATV crashes on public roads was speeding too fast.

This highlights the need for not only safety gear but also following the state laws.

If you are in an ORV accident or suffer personal injury operating an ORV in Michigan

Here’s the law: the operator of an ORV involved in an accident resulting in personal injury to a person or in property damage in an estimated amount of $100 or more must immediately notify the State Police or Sheriff’s office of the county where the accident occurred, and is required to fill out an accident report.

Can you collect No Fault insurance benefits?

When an ORV is involved in a crash or accident with a car or truck, the injuries are usually very serious.  The problem is exacerbated by the fact that even when you are visible and driving safely, many passenger car vehicles do not “see” you because these drivers are not cognitively attuned to be on the lookout for these types of vehicles. This makes driving these vehicles around cars much more dangerous.

If you are injured in an ORV accident, you can still get your medical benefits covered and if you’ve suffered very serious injury, you can collect attendant care and wage loss under Michigan No-Fault, but only if ORV is  involved in an accident with another motor vehicle.

If a motor vehicle is NOT involved, such as if the ORV operator injures himself operating  the vehicle, then no claim can be made under Michigan’s No Fault law, because the ORV is not considered a motor vehicle under our law.  It is a critical distinction.

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