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What Are the Rules of the Road for Riding on Horseback?

This week's column question comes from a recent call to the station that required asking our expert at HQ.

Have you ever had a question you couldn’t answer, even after Googling it? Believe it or not, Troopers experience the same type of brain-cramping questions, too. Like all good police officers, if we don’t know the answer, we either research for an answer or ask someone who knows.

This is a good time to introduce Sgt. Michael Church, who is our go-to person for these types of questions regarding laws and legal procedures. Church has been with the Michigan State Police for 11 years and has had various assignment's including road patrol, Sex Offender Registry coordinator, trooper investigator and defensive tactics instructor. Church has a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Michigan and a Law Degree from Thomas M. Cooley School of Law. Church is currently assigned to the Michigan State Police headquarters in the office of the Director, Legal Resource and Education Unit.

Why is this a good time to introduce Sgt. Church? Last week, Trooper Denis McCarthy responded to a call for service regarding the responsibilities and rights of a person riding a horse while they are riding on the road. It’s not one of those issues we see every day so we called Church for the right answer.

Church pointed us to MCL 257.604: "A person riding an animal or driving an animal-drawn vehicle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all the duties, criminal penalties, and civil sanctions applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this chapter, except those provisions of this chapter which by their very nature may not have application."

That means the horseback rider would have to obey the speed limit, stop signs and signal if turning (remember those hand signals). The provisions not applicable would be window wipers, defrosters, headlamps, etc. …

By then we had inquiring minds and we asked about horse drawn buggies. Church advised, a horse-drawn buggy is, by definition, is a vehicle (“'Vehicle' means every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, except devices exclusively moved by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks and except, only for the purpose of titling and registration under this act, a mobile home as defined in section 2 of the mobile home commission act, Act No. 96 of the Public Acts of 1987, being section 125.2302 of the Michigan Compiled Laws."). MCL 257.79.

The slow-moving sign requirement comes in with MCL 257.688(1)(g): Subject to subsection (3), when operated on the highway, every vehicle which has a maximum potential speed of 25 miles an hour, implement of husbandry, farm tractor, or special mobile equipment shall be identified with a reflective device as follows: … "  Since a buggy is a vehicle it is required to have an orange triangle mounted on the rear of the buggy. 

Note: a buggy is also an implement of husbandry ( "… is either a farm tractor, a vehicle designed to be drawn by a farm tractor or an animal, a vehicle which directly harvests farm products, or a vehicle which directly applies fertilizer, spray, or seeds to a farm field.).  MCL 257.21.  These are also required to have the orange triangle mounted on the rear of the buggy.

If you have a question, please send it to askatrooper12@gmail.com or mail it to the Michigan State Police – Brighton Post, 4803 S. Old U.S. 23, Brighton, MI   48114.

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