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FAQs for ROVs

What is an ROV?
An ROV is a Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle. An ROV is also commonly referred to as a Side-by-Side, a Recreational Utility Vehicle (RUV), or a Utility Terrain Vehicle (UTV). These new laws introduce a new definition into the California Vehicle Code (CVC) for an ROV.

CVC Section 500 reads:  Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle means a motor vehicle meeting all of the following criteria:
   (a) Designed by the manufacturer for operation primarily off of the highway.
   (b) Has a steering wheel for steering control.
   (c) Has nonstraddle seating provided by the manufacturer for the operator and all passengers.
   (d) (1) Has a maximum speed capability of greater than 30 miles per hour.
        (2) A vehicle designed by the manufacturer with a maximum speed capability of 30 miles per hour or less but is modified so that it has a maximum speed capability of greater than 30 miles per hour satisfies the criteria set forth in this subdivision.
   (e) Has an engine displacement equal to or less than 1,000cc (61 ci).

Do I need to wear a helmet, as well as my passengers, while operating my ROV?
Yes. Effective January 1, 2013, CVC Section 38601 requires all passengers and the operator to wear a safety helmet while operating an ROV.

Do I need to wear a helmet, as well as my passengers, while operating my sand rail, dune buggy or Jeep off-highway?
Although additional safety precautions are always recommended, CVC Section 38601 applies only to a vehicle defined as an ROV.

What type of safety helmet am I required to wear?
CVC Section 38601 reads:  A person shall not operate, or allow a passenger in, a recreational off-highway vehicle unless the person and the passenger are wearing safety helmets meeting the requirements established for motorcycles and motorized bicycles pursuant to CVC Section 27802. CVC Section 27802 defines the guidelines to be used as meeting the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS), Standard 218. FMVSS 218 defines those standards, of which, identifies the requirement of a DOT label.

Do I need to wear my seatbelt/shoulder belt or safety harness while operating my ROV?
Yes. CVC Section 38602 reads:  A person operating, and any passenger in, a ROV shall wear a seatbelt and shoulder belt or safety harness that is properly fastened when the vehicle is in motion.

Do I need to wear my seatbelt/ shoulder belt or safety harness while operating my Jeep, sandrail, dune buggy off-highway?
Although additional safety precautions are always recommended, CVC Section 38602 applies only to a vehicle defined as an ROV.

May I install a car seat in my ROV?
The use of a child passenger restraint system, commonly called a car seat, is not mentioned in the law, therefore not specifically prohibited.

Will my child be required to wear a helmet if s/he is in a car seat?
Yes. CVC Section 38601 reads:  A person shall not operate, or allow a passenger in, a recreational off-highway vehicle unless the person and the passenger are wearing safety helmets meeting the requirements established for motorcycles and motorized bicycles pursuant to CVC Section 27802.

The law states that passengers and the operator must wear a safety helmet while operating in an ROV. At this time, legislation does not allow a child seat to be a substitute for the requirement of the use of a helmet.

May I install aftermarket seats in my ROV?
Yes. Any manufacturer provided seat can be replaced with an aftermarket seat; however, for 2014 model year and later models, seats cannot be added in areas of the vehicle that were not designed as seating areas by the manufacturer.

May I install additional seats in my ROV?
The answer to this question depends on the model year of the vehicle.  CVC Section 38603 as amended, permits the addition of seating areas not provided by the manufacturer in 2013 and earlier model years provided that all occupants of the vehicle are fully contained within the vehicle’s rollover protection. For model year 2014 and later vehicles, the law states these vehicles cannot be modified to provide seating that was not provided by the manufacturer. The text of this law reads:

38603. (a) A person operating a recreational off-highway vehicle with a model year of 2014 or later shall not allow a passenger to occupy a separate seat location not designed and provided by the manufacturer for a passenger.
   (b) Seats that are installed in a separate seat location not designed and provided by the manufacturer for a passenger in vehicles with model year of 2013 or earlier may be occupied by a passenger if the occupant of the seat is fully contained inside of the vehicle's rollover protection structure at all times while the vehicle is being operated.

May I allow a 14 year old to operate my ROV?
Yes. CVC Section 38600 reads:  A person operating a recreational off-highway vehicle shall be at least 16 years of age, or be directly supervised in the vehicle by a parent or guardian or by an adult authorized by the parent or guardian.

Additionally, the provisions of CVC Section 38304, Reach and Operate all controls, still apply.

If my ROV does not have an occupant handhold, will I be required to add one?
If a manufacturer installed handhold has been removed, or is not present, then one shall be installed on the vehicle to satisfy the requirements of CVC Section 38604, if no other vehicle component provides the same safety feature. A handhold shall meet the intent of the law, which is to keep the occupants hands inside of the vehicle. The roll cage shall not meet the intent of a handhold. The seat cushion shall not meet the intent of a handhold.

CVC Section 38604 reads:  
"Occupant handhold" means any factory or aftermarket device grasped by an occupant to provide support and to assist in keeping arms and hands within the recreational off-highway vehicle. The steering wheel shall be considered an occupant handhold for the recreational off-highway vehicle operator.
   (c) Occupant handholds shall be designed to allow the recreational off-highway vehicle passenger to exit the vehicle without interference from the handholds.