Laws regarding off-road vehicles being operated on roadways and private property; St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office to begin issuing citations
The change of weather has caused an increase of illegally operated off-road vehicles, all-terrain vehicles, and similar vehicles being operated throughout St. Mary’s County on roadways, private property, and in residential areas. These vehicles pose a considerable safety threat to riders and residents, whether on the public or private property.
The St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office has investigated over 545 complaints since 2015 and responded to nearly 300 traffic calls for service involving off-road vehicles. The Sheriff’s Office will begin issuing citations to offenders and increase parent responsibility for juvenile riders. The Sheriff’s Office wants to ensure citizens are familiar with the laws regarding requirements for off-road vehicles being operated on roadways and private property not owned by the rider.
The Sheriff’s Office is working in concert with the State’s Attorney Richard Fritz on this initiative.
The difference between motor vehicles and off-highway recreational vehicles, as defined by Maryland Vehicle Law:
Maryland vehicle law defines motor vehicles as vehicles that are self-propelled or propelled by electric power obtained from overhead electrical wires and are not operated on rails. Under this definition, off-highway recreational vehicles (three wheeler, pocket bike, golf cart, four-wheeler, utility vehicle/side by side) are not considered motor vehicles.
For purposes of Maryland Vehicle Law only, off-highway recreational vehicles means a motor vehicle that is
1. motor-assisted or motor-driven
(i) is designed to carry only the operator of the vehicle on a seat or saddle designed to be to be straddled by the operator or is designed to carry only the operator of the vehicle and one passenger;
(ii) Is commonly known as an all-terrain vehicle, three wheeler, pocket bike, golf cart, four-wheeler, utility vehicle, also knows as a side by side.
2. A motorcycle that is designed for off-highway operation and is not eligible for registration as a Class D (motorcycle) vehicle under this article, commonly knows as a dirtbike;
The following is information regarding where off-road vehicles can and can not be driven:
- Any vehicle that is not registered in the state of Maryland may not be driven on Maryland highways. Maryland vehicle law defines highways as the entire width between the boundary line of any way or thoroughfare of which any part is used by the public for vehicular travel, whether or not the way or thoroughfare has been dedicated to the public and accepted by any proper authority. This means off-road vehicles are for use on PRIVATE PROPERTY only, with the permission of the owner/agent. According to Maryland Vehicle Law, they cannot be operated on public sidewalks, public roads, streets or highways.
In addition to any other traffic violations observed, the following are a list of Maryland Transportation Article Charges that one could face if observed operating an off-road vehicle contrarily to the law.
- 13 402 by – Driving unregistered motor vehicle - $290/0 points
- 16 101 a – (Driving, Attempting to Drive) motor vehicle on highway without required license and authorization – *Must Appear/5 Points
- 16 101 b – Operating a (moped, motor scooter) on the highway without required license or permit – *Must Appear/5 Points. Although, “motor assisted” and “motor driven,” a moped and motor scooter can be operated on the highway if the operator has a valid license or a moped permit obtained through the MVA.
- Knowingly permitting (child, ward) under 15 to drive motor vehicle on Highway – $290/5 points
- 17 107 – Driving Uninsured Vehicle – *Must Appear/5 points
- An individual operating an off-road vehicle will run the risk of having their ATV towed and stored by the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office.
*A person issued a MUST APPEAR CITATION will receive a court date in the mail and must see the judge; there is no pre-set fine.
Anyone with additional questions is asked to contact our Traffic Safety Unit at 301-863-4816, ext *1456 or by email, Brian.Connelly@stmarysmd.com.