Side-by-Sides are showing up everywhere, they have even made an appearance on the streets in smaller areas. When I have been travelling with my family it seems, that every state has different laws and regulations about driving our side-by-side. It is important to know the states’ laws on street legal side-by-sides.
Side-by-sides can be made street legal in the state of Michigan if you follow the correct regulations and modifications that are discussed in the Bill passed by the House in 5639.
This is a new bill passed by the state, so many long-time side-by-side (or UTV which means utility terrain vehicle) riders are having to make extensive modifications to their vehicle if they want to use it on the paved city roads.
What are Michigan’s regulations?
Each UTV has to be prepared to follow all the laws that are required by the average driver on the roads. Which includes using a turn-signal when they are driving or having a state-issued license plate linked to an individual. With this change, every UTV will be given a VIN from the state.
The average UTV has all-terrain wheels on the vehicle, which have a thicker and more aggressive tread on the tire. This is not going to be a great choice for the state roads, the Department of Transportation (or DoT) has a list of tires that are approved by the state.
The main requirements are that they are in good care without exposed cords, that there is not any tread separation and that they are 2/32 inch tread. When finding these tires, check with the company to ensure that they are approved by the United States Department of Transportation.
Bumpers only apply to the vehicles that carry passengers, they should be between 14- 22″ from the ground. (when it is not in the four-wheel drive) Bumpers are a pretty simple modification to make, and many UTV companies are putting more bumpers on their stock vehicles.
Seat Belts/ Safety Features
Most of your UTVs will have seat belts of some kind for at least the driver and passenger, but every person in the vehicle needs to be belted. There are different types of seat belts you could go for, including the basic belt to full harnesses that are great to use.
You will need to add a plate stand onto the back of the UTV (you do not need to have one on the front).
You are going to need some mirrors on your side-by-side. This includes your two rear-view mirrors to allow you to see oncoming traffic but also includes your inside rearview mirror for reversing your vehicle. They are good to have on any outdoor vehicle even if you are not using them on the street and just on trail rides.
Lights and Signals
There are a few lighting modifications you will need to make, UTVs now come with front lights to drive trails in poorly lit areas, but now you are going to need brights, tail lights, brake lights, and turn signals.
Turn signals are going to be the easiest to install, by mounting four small LED or incandescent lights, and a few basic parts including a flasher, resister and a switch.
The majority of newer UTV’s are going to have brake lights to signal when you are slowing down. You will need your license plate to be illuminated as well.
The windshield cannot just be the basic plexiglass windshield that is so popular now with UTVs. Your windshield needs to be a safety glass windshield like your traditional vehicles. It also needs to have windshield wipers and needs to have the ability to clean the windshield automatically.
The breaks have to be up to code and have working break lights.
There needs to be a horn, to be eligible for street legality. I also just encourage you to have one regardless if you want your vehicle to be on the roads. Even on dirt trails, even UTVs are relatively small and could go unseen by distracted drivers in big cars.
Obviously, with having your vehicle street legal, you are going to need identification. You will need to receive a VIN number from the state, then you can register your UTV with the state as you would your traditional vehicles.
There are also other modifications you can make to be as safe as you can be on the streets with your UTV. Doors are the first that come to mind, just having that extra protection to your vehicle.
There are so many options for doors you can do the stock door, a half door, or my recommendation is the fully inclosed doors. With this modification, it opens the capability to add heating and air conditioning in your vehicle. That creates more of a car like feel, also it gets pretty cold in Michigan. Driving with no doors, windows or roof at 30 miles per hour. It is going to be cold and windy.
Which brings me to my next recommendation, get a roof. Not just a basic Nylon that you can rip off in seconds, I recommend a mounted roof either aluminum or the poly carbon options.
Going back to seatbelts, the across the lap seat belts are fine, but I recommend having the full-body harness seat belts. There are not always airbags in UTVs and that extra layer of protection is great to hold you back from whiplash in smaller accidents.
If your vehicle does not have power steering I would definitely encourage you to look into it. The safety benefits are innumerable and when driving on paved streets and residential areas it is best to have the ability to react as fast as possible. The challenges are different than basic trail riding.
In the state of Michigan, it is mandatory that all passengers be wearing a helmet when riding in a UTV, and if your helmet does not have a face mask you will need to be wearing safety goggles as well. This does not include vehicles that have roofs.
When on the streets, and private property the rules on gear are different and usually does not necessitate the use of goggles and helmets.
Normally you would need an ORV (Off-road Vehicle) permit to ride on trails. But when riding a street legal side-by-side it is not mandatory you will only need your basic Class C license to operate the vehicle on state-owned roads, even on normal trails, you will not need one if you stay in 2-wheel drive. There are some circumstances that would necessitate you getting an ORV license, but with an annual fee of around 25 dollars, it doesn’t seem too daunting.
All of these different modifications can add up quickly, not even including the fees that start by just receiving a VIN number. Different side-by-side owners reported that they spent over 1,500 dollars on trying to get their vehicle street legal. This price will obviously depend on the individual’s capability to make the modifications on their own or if they have to pay for someone to do it for them.
Some seem very excited by this last bill that was signed by Governor Synder, and others see it as too much of an inconvenience to make the necessary changes. It is something to consider when deciding to make your vehicle street legal or even to buy one in the first place.
What states are side by sides street legal? Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Texas, Minnesota, Wyoming, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, North and South Dakota, Washington, Michigan, Kentucky, Nebraska, Ohio, Vermont, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Tennessee, and Colorado are all states that have made side-by-sides legal, but they all have their own regulations to make the vehicle legal for street use.
What are the best UTV street legal kits? There are many different kits that give you the tools to make your UTV street legal, but not all the kits will have everything for each state. One I recommend that is generally good is the Tusk brand that is universal for many UTV brands.