Sheriff patrols out on area ORV trails

Clarissa Kell | Daily Press Delta County Sheriff’s deputy Stephen Kositzky sits inside the Delta County Sheriff’s ORV near a wooded area in Escanaba recently. Kositzky is the deputy designated to ORV patrol this summer. The ORV is equipped with radar, lights and a siren.

ESCANABA — With the weather warming, Off Road Vehicles (ORVs) are taking to the trails in Delta County.

Delta County Sheriff’s Office has a deputy dedicated to ORV safety by patrolling in the department’s ORV — equipped with radar, lights and a siren.

According to Delta County Sheriff Ed Oswald, there are not many accidents as ORV machines like side-by-sides are continuously getting safer, but riders still need to be cautious out on the trails.

“We have some, but it’s not that often,” he said. “We are seeing safer machines now. So, years ago on a four-wheeler 25 mph might be unsafe on specific trails — on a four-wheeler. But on a side-by-side, it is perfectly safe because they are made to handle the bumps — they’re made to so much different now that we are seeing a reduction with the accidents, with injuries.”

Oswald said when accidents do occur, they are usually caused by ORVs following too closely on dusty trails and gravel roads.

“When on a trail or gravel road, follow some distance behind. Allow the dust some time to settle,” he said.

Oswald explained deputies are usually out enforcing the speed ordinance when out on patrol.

“Most of our complaints are ORV speeding by houses because it is annoying to people. They’re loud,” he said, adding speed increases the noise the machines make.

In Delta County, an ordinance went into effect in 2009 that authorized and regulated the operations of ORVs on roads in Delta County.

According to the ordinance, ORVs can only be operated on a road or street in the county at a speed of no more than 25 mph or a lower posted ORV speed limit and 15 mph in recognizable legal subdivisions.

The ordinance also has other requirements for ORV operations on roads and streets in Delta County.

Oswald said the ordinance can be found on the county’s website at https://deltacountymi.org.

Deputy Stephen Kositzky is the only deputy assigned to ORV patrol for this ORV season.

He explained in years past there was more than one deputy assigned to the specialty patrols, but due to limited manpower, the department can only designate one deputy.

The Delta County designated ORV deputy patrols during April, May, part of June and September. Kositzky said during part of June, July and August, a deputy is assigned to the department’s marine patrol. He explained the sheriff’s department is only able to designate one deputy to one specialty at a time.

Both Department of Natural Resources conservation officers and the ORV deputy patrol the trails.

The Delta County Sheriff’s ORV patrol is funded through the state from the purchase of ORV stickers and tickets issued for the violation of the Delta County ORV ordinance.

A new section to the Michigan Vehicle Code, Act 300 of 1949, regarding ORVs went into effect March 28, 2019. The section, 257.217i, allows people to plate their ORVs through the secretary of state office to drive on roadways. The addition is in a trial period right now as the Michigan State Police conduct a safety study for its first year.

“It’s a new law that would allow you to plate your ORV,” Oswald said. “I’m pretty excited about this, they’ve done this in the past — back in the 80s. In the early 80s, you were able to plate your ORVs. I don’t like the idea of running them down a busy highway, just because if any accident — it could be catastrophic. But county roads and so forth, I think it’s a good idea.”

He said most people use ORVs for pleasure and use them to get from place to place and trail to trail.

Oswald explained people interested in getting their ORVs plated have to have their ORV inspected by a deputy after getting paperwork from the secretary of state office.

There is a long list of equipment the ORV has to have to satisfy the requirements laid out in the law for plating an ORV. The list includes: headlights, front and rear turn signals, at least one taillight, registration plate light, brake lights, horn, bright light indicator, windshield wipers, windshield washers, brake equipment, safety belts, safety glass windshield, outside review mirror on each side of the vehicle or an adjustable outside rearview mirror on the driver’s side depending on size of vehicle, bumpers, Department of Transportation approved tires, exhaust, and differential gear.

Oswald said his department has already inspected some ORVs, adding the Delta County Sheriff’s ORV will be plated soon.