4x4s and other off-road vehicles could be allowed on many more Michigan roads, under a bill that’s headed to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk.
Currently, ORVs can drive on the shoulders in the Upper Peninsula and eight counties in the Lower Peninsula.
John Chad is director of Happi-Trails ATV Club in Grayling. He says the changes would be great for local riders and increase tourism.
“I average maybe three calls a week, and this is every week, from out-of-staters who are coming into Michigan go riding. It’s really big because we have one of the largest trail systems out there,” Chad said.
The existing trail system covers 3,700 miles. But the bill could open up thousands more miles, driving on the right of way.
Local governments would get a say in the decision. But after January 2015, the Michigan Department of Transportation could authorize ORVs to drive on the shoulders of highways without the consent of local governments.
Some lawmakers raised concerns about potential increased safety problems.
“Yes you will get the occasional person who gets out there and runs crazy,” Chad admits, “But we’ve been really, really good at teaching and promoting ourselves as far as safety.” He says people pushing for the bills are taking a “practical view” of safety concerns.
People who ride ATVs are required to wear helmets and goggles, unless the vehicle has a roof and the occupants are wearing seat belts. Kids under age 16 must have a certificate and be supervised by an adult.
Chad has six ATVs, one for each member of his family. He says his oldest son, who’s autistic, has been riding since age 4. “It’s been one of the best teachers for him, the vibration and the senses and everything, they go into overdrive. He’s a good rider; he can outride me,” Chad said with a laugh.
Riders with disabilities already have broader right-of-way access while driving ORVs.