If you were on social media earlier this week, you would have seen the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division (OHMVRD) of California State Parks’ information bulletin classifying the all-new Polaris RZR Pro R as a sand car. Yes, by law, based on the vehicle code, that is how it is classified, but there is more to it.
The OHMVRD bulletin states:
The purpose of this Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Information Bulletin is to ensure that land managers and their law enforcement staff understand that while the Polaris RZR Pro R looks very much like the other Polaris RZR models, it is not an ROV and not subject to enforcement under Section 38600 (Recreational Off-Highway Vehicles) of the California Vehicle Code.
Clarification: The Polaris RZR Pro R does not meet all of the specifications needed to define it as an ROV. Per CVC 500 (e) an ROV’s engine must be 1000cc or less. The RZR Pro R has an engine displacement of 1997cc. Because it has a steering wheel, non-straddle seating and is listed by the manufacturer as a RZR model, it is very easy to mistake it as an ROV. The RZR Pro R is larger than previous 2-seat RZRs. It is over a foot longer (104.5 in. vs 90 in.) and nearly a foot wider (74 in. vs 64 in) than other RZR two-seat models.
While contacting drivers of the RZR Pro R is likely to occur as they are very similar in appearance to ROVs, they are not ROVs. The California Air Resources Board has evaluated the vehicle and designated it as a “sand car” and it has been certified to receive a Green Sticker Identification. As is the case for all “sand cars” (dune buggies, sand rails etc.), no ROV helmet, seat belt, grab bar or seating laws are applicable for the RZR Pro R.
We reached out to the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division of California State Parks and spoke with Mark Hada, a Commander with the OHMVRD, to find out more about the bulletin.
“The RZR Pro R really looks like a beefier version of some of the other Polaris RZR products, but because of the engine size, it is not a Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle (ROV) by legal definition,” Hada said. “The existing ROV helmet, seat belt, grab bar, and other laws that appear in the California Vehicle Code under section 38600 do not apply to this vehicle. Having said that, all of the other general OHV laws apply, including lights for night use and the ability of the driver to properly reach and control the vehicle, to name a couple.”
The most significant comment we saw on social media was people saying that the OHMVRD will have people out riding without proper safety gear, and more people will get hurt. Per the law, yes, it is not required, but I think anyone in this industry could agree that wearing the proper safety gear should be the top priority any time you head out on a side-by-side.
“In spite of no legal requirement to wear seat belts or a helmet, these safety devices save lives,” Hada explained. “The Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division of California State Parks strongly encourages the user of OHVs to utilize the safety equipment that is available fully.”
“Ejection from vehicles, limbs outside of vehicles, and people banging their heads on the vehicle frames are the most common injuries I hear about. In Ohio, an award is given to people who survived motorcycle crashes because they were wearing a helmet. With an ROV, you may never be thrown out of your vehicle due to an impact or accident if you wear your seat belt, but nearly any driver will tell you about having their head banged off the frame or roll bar while being bounced around off-road.”
There may be a learning curve with Rangers learning and being able to tell the difference between what vehicle is what, but if we all do our part, everyone’s experience outdoors won’t change.
“I think there will be some challenges for OHV Law Enforcement officers being able to tell the difference between the RZR Pro R and other vehicles, the similarity to other OHV equipment is startling,” Hada said. “To prevent inadvertently being stopped, I heard about one person who decided to highlight his model of RZR by putting it on every viewing angle. I expect that as the model becomes more common, those officers who can spot the difference between a 2018 and 2019 KTM 350 will get the hang of it.”
As someone who has personally rolled a vehicle a time or two before, I highly recommend everyone getting in a side-by-side wear the proper safety gear. It may not always be the cool thing to do, but it will ensure you go home to your family and enjoy another trip with your friends.
For more detailed questions about the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division of California State Parks, visit their website.