According to Florida law, a side-by-side, or ROV as the state describes it, cannot be legally operated on any public road, street, or highway. The only exception to this law is if the road is an unpaved public roadway where there is a speed limit posted of 35 miles per hour or less and during the day.
Many people love driving their side-by-sides outside on trails, in the woods, or even in the sand dunes. However, some people who live near these areas would love to be able to take them on the road and through their towns.
Before you do that though, it is important to know the various laws from different states regarding the operation of side-by-sides seeing that it changes from state to state and even from county to county at times.
Driving your side-by-side is not flat out illegal everywhere you go. The Federal government allows states to decide how they will rule on being able to drive your off-road vehicle on the streets or not, and many states go even further as to making these decision fall to local counties.
Some states like Utah, Idaho, Indiana, and others are pretty lax in their vehicle laws for side-by-sides and make for a pretty easy process to convert your side-by-side to the necessary attachments to make your vehicle street legal.
Other states, however, are more strict in whether or not you can even convert your side-by-side with added attachments will allow for street legalization of the vehicle.
I am from Indiana and currently living in Idaho, so I got it pretty easy. I am sorry to say though that those of you who are living in Florida will not be able to take your side-by-side out onto a public road anytime soon. For whatever reason, Florida will just not allow it.
It does not matter if you have a horn wired into the side-by-side if you have mirrors, a license plate, windshields, or even full doors and windows, the state of Florida prohibits any ROV (Recreational off-highway vehicle) on public roadways or highways.
There may be some little loopholes though if you are careful enough with definitions. By that I mean, what the state of Florida considers as an ROV, does not technically describe every single side-by-side. In fact, it leaves a lot of them outside the description altogether.
So let us take a look at some of the various Florida state laws for side-by-sides along with their descriptions and codes so that you can determine for yourself whether or not you fall into certain categories and feel like taking a risk or too, at your own will of course.
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What is a Side-by-Side According to Florida?
Before we get into whether we can, or can’t, it would be smart to first understand what the wonderful sunshine state actually considers a side-by-side to be because that will help us understand whether or not we fall under these various codes or not.
“ipsa scientia potestas est” (knowledge itself is power‘)Francis Bacon
There are quite a few different articles and sites that have indeed misquoted the current Florida state laws in regards to side-by-sides, their definitions, and their available uses.
Do not get me wrong, my statement at the beginning of the article still stands, an ROV as the state defines it still cannot legally be driven on any paved roadway, street, or highway.
It is good to know how the state actually defines a side-by-side, or an ROV, as they call it though, that way you can determine for yourself whether or not your specific side-by-side falls under the description of the state.
Under the 2019 Florida Statutes in chapter 261 titled “OFF-HIGHWAY VEHICLE SAFETY AND RECREATION,” the description of an ROV is defined thusly.
(Section 8) “ROV” means any motorized recreational off-highway vehicle 80 inches or less in width which has a dry weight of 2,500 pounds or less, is designed to travel on four or more nonhighway tires, and is manufactured for recreational use by one or more persons. The term does not include a golf cart as defined in ss. 316.003 and 320.01 or a low-speed vehicle as defined in s. 320.01.
So if your side-by-side is of 80-inches or less in width and has a dry weight of 2,500 pounds and uses non-highway tires or DOT tires as they are often called, then your side-by-side does indeed fall under the description of the state of Florida for ROVs.
It is important to note that a lot of other sites currently have the old laws and statues posted for Florida’s description of an ROV which was if your vehicle was 60-inches or less and had a dry weight of 1,500 pounds or less.
As you can see that information is outdated and no longer applies. The description bolded above is the current law and statute as it currently sits in 2019.
Before you go saying “well what is a highway-vehicle?” just know that professional lawyers take specific definitions very seriously and have already beat you to the punch.
Under the same chapter, section 5 states that “Off-highway vehicle” means any ATV, two-rider ATV, ROV, or OHM that is used off the roads or highways of this state and that is not registered and licensed for highway use under chapter 320.”
So if you want to go check out chapter 320 under the 2019 Florida statutes and see if you can find a loophole there be my guest, but I would think that it would be unlikely for you to find any such thing.
I believe that it is safe to say that Florida covered all of its bases when creating precise legal definitions to ensure that nobody can take their side-by-sides out onto the street or highway through some loophole of definition.
Other Useful Side-by-Side Regulations to Know
While the meat of this article was primarily to determine whether or not you can legally ride a side-by-side on the street, which you cannot, it may be helpful to know some of the other regulations that Florida has before you go and take a trip there and unknowingly break the law.
Be at Least 16 Years of Age
If you are driving your side-by-side on public lands then the following laws will apply to you.
In Chapter 261 under section 2, Florida law states that “any person operating an off-highway vehicle as permitted in this section who has not attained 16 years of age must be supervised by an adult while operating the off-highway vehicle.”
So if you are taking a trip to Florida and plan on going out to some state parks, or public property and drive your side-by-side you will need to be 16 or older.
If you are living in Florida and want a way around this statute, then there is a way. According to section 3 of the same chapter, if you are under 16 you can obtain “a certificate evidencing the satisfactory completion of an approved off-highway vehicle safety course in this state or another jurisdiction.“
That way you will be able to operate a side-by-side without having to have completed your 16 birthday. Understand also that these age restrictions only apply if you are on public land.
If you are visiting a friend or family member and they have a bunch of property that you can go out and drive on, then you will not have to be 16 years of age in order to do so.
Wear Proper Protection
This only applies if you are under the age of 16 however the law states that “For a person who has not attained 16 years of age, to operate an off-highway vehicle without wearing eye protection, over-the-ankle boots, and a safety helmet that is approved by the United States Department of Transportation or Snell Memorial Foundation.”
You are in violation of the law if you “…operate an off-highway vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or any prescription or over-the-counter drug that impairs vision or motor condition.”
No Extra Passengers
It is a violation of the law “To carry more passengers on an off-highway vehicle than the machine is specifically designed by the manufacturer to carry.”
No Reckless Driving
If you “…operate an off-highway vehicle in a careless or reckless manner that endangers or causes injury or damage to another person or property,” then you violate the state law as well.
If you break or violate this law in any way shape or form then you can be subject to a fine of at least $100 dollars and you may have your privilege to operate a side-by-side on public land revoked. So have fun, but just be careful.