The following opinion is presented on-line for informational use only and does not replace the official version. (Mich Dept of Attorney General Web Site - www.ag.state.mi.us)



STATE OF MICHIGAN

FRANK J. KELLEY, ATTORNEY GENERAL



HIGHWAYS AND ROADS:

MOTOR VEHICLES:

SNOWMOBILES:

Regulation of off-highway operation of snowmobiles



The speed limit provisions of the Michigan Vehicle Code, 1949 PA 300, do not apply to the operation of snowmobiles on nonhighway portions of public and private lands. The speed limit provisions of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, Part 821, 1995 PA 58, govern the speed of snowmobiles operated on nonhighway portions of public and private lands.


Opinion No. 6973

March 20, 1998


Honorable Charles R. Perricone
State Representative
The Capitol
Lansing, MI


You have asked if the speed limit provisions of the Michigan Vehicle Code, 1949 PA 300, apply to the operation of snowmobiles on nonhighway portions of public and private lands.

The Michigan Vehicle Code, 1949 PA 300, MCL 257.1 et seq; MSA 9.1801 et seq, was enacted by the Legislature to cope with the problems of motor vehicle registrations, licensing, and traffic safety. The Michigan Vehicle Code defines the term "motor vehicle" as "every vehicle that is self-propelled, but for purposes of chapter 4 of this act motor vehicle does not include industrial equipment such as a
forklift, a front-end loader, or other construction equipment that is not subject to registration under this act." Section 33.

Initially, a snowmobile meets the Michigan Vehicle Code definition of a "motor vehicle." Montgomery v Dep't of Natural Resources, 172 Mich App 718, 722, 432 NW2d 414 (1988). After snowmobiles began to be mass-produced in the mid-1960s1, however, the Legislature enacted the Michigan snowmobile law, 1968 PA 74, MCL 257.1501 et seq; MSA 9.3200(1) et seq, to address the registration and regulation of snowmobiles. Sections 12 through 16 of the snowmobile law regulate speed and other aspects of snowmobile operations, both on and off highways. OAG, 1975-1976, No 4918, p 218 (December 19, 1975), considered the extensive regulation of snowmobiles by the snowmobile law and concluded that this statute preempted the regulation of snowmobiles, except as permitted by that act, or consonant with Const 1963, art 7,  29, thus giving local units of government reasonable control over their highways, streets, alleys and public places.

The Legislature subsequently enacted the Natural Resources and Environ-
mental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, MCL 324.101 et seq; MSA 13A.101 et seq (NREPA), which codifies, revises and consolidates laws relating to the state's environment and natural resources. In 1995, the Legislature added "Part 821. Snowmobiles," 1995 PA 58, MCL 324.82101 et seq; MSA 13A.82101 et seq, which regulates snowmobiles and which repeals the former snowmobile law, 1968 PA
74, supra.

The NREPA repeals and reenacts many existing laws, retains the existing language, and makes no substantive changes in the provisions of these statutes. This conclusion is supported by a legislative analysis of House Bills 4348-4351, and 4385, which became 1995 PA 58.

House Bills 4349, 4350, 4351 and 4385 would amend the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA) to recodify current natural resources management statutes concerning wildlife conservation, recreation, habitat protection, and environmental issues, respectively, repealing and reenacting existing laws by inserting them into the NREPA.

House Legislative Analysis, HBs 4348-4351, 4385, March 1, 1995.

Section 82101(o) of the NREPA defines the term snowmobile as follows:

"Snowmobile" means any motor-driven vehicle designed for travel primarily on snow or ice of a type that utilizes sled-type runners or skis, an endless belt tread, or any combination of these or other similar means of contact with the surface upon which it is operated, but is not a vehicle that must be registered under the Michigan vehicle code, Act No. 300 of the Public Acts of 1949, being sections 257.1 to 257.923 of the Michigan Compiled Laws.

Section 82126(1) establishes speed limits governing the operation of snowmobiles, and prohibits the operation of snowmobiles under any of the following circumstances:

(a) At a rate of speed greater than is reasonable and proper having due regard for conditions then existing.

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(c) On the frozen surface of public waters within 100 feet of a person, including a skater, not in or upon a snowmobile or within 100 feet of a fishing shanty or shelter except at the minimum speed required to maintain forward movement of the snowmobile or on an area which has been cleared of snow for skating purposes unless the area is necessary for access to the public water.

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(e) Within 100 feet of a dwelling between 12 midnight and 6 a.m., at a speed greater than the minimum required to maintain forward movement of the snowmobile.

Section 82119(a) further provides that if a snowmobile is operated on a public highway right-of-way, its speed is limited to the speed limit posted on the public highway, in the absence of a posted snowmobile speed limit.

It is noted that the operation of snowmobiles on highways, or parts of highways, may be subject to both the Michigan Vehicle Code and the snowmobile law. Each statute shares a common application to snowmobiles when they are operated on highways. People v Rogers, 438 Mich 602, 608, 475 NW2d 717 (1991). Local prosecutors have broad discretion in determining under which of the two applicable statutes to prosecute violations.

Nothing contained in the Michigan Vehicle Code, supra, establishes speed limits for snowmobiles operated on nonhighway portions of public and private lands. As noted above, however, the NREPA establishes specific speed limitations governing the off-highway operation of snowmobiles on both public and private lands. There is no conflict between the Michigan Vehicle Code and the NREPA regarding snowmobile speed limits. If there were such a conflict, the more specific statute governing snowmobiles (the NREPA) would prevail over the more general statute (the Michigan Vehicle Code). It is a well-settled rule of statutory construction that if there is a conflict between a specific and a general statute, the specific statute will prevail, especially if enacted after the general statute. First Bank of Cadillac v Miller, 131 Mich App 764, 769; 347 NW2d 715 (1984).

It is my opinion, therefore, that the speed limit provisions of the Michigan Vehicle Code, 1949 PA 300, do not apply to the operation of snowmobiles on nonhighway portions of public and private lands. The speed limit provisions of the Natural Resources and Protection Act, Part 821, 1995 PA 58, govern the speed of snowmobiles operated on nonhighway portions of public and private lands.



FRANK J. KELLEY
Attorney General

1 29 Am Jur Proof of Fact, Snowmobile Accidents, 1, p 643 (1972).