2017 Vermont Statutes
Title 23 - Motor Vehicles
Chapter 29 - Snowmobiles, Motorboats, And Water Sports
§ 3206 Operation on and across public highways, sidewalks; age restrictions; private lands; prohibited areas and prohibited methods of operation; reckless operation; SWI; financial responsibility

Universal Citation: 23 V.S.A. § 3206

§ 3206. Operation on and across public highways, sidewalks; age restrictions; private lands; prohibited areas and prohibited methods of operation; reckless operation; SWI; financial responsibility; trail access limited; head and face protection

(a) A person shall operate, or cause to be operated, a snowmobile only in accordance with this chapter.

(b) A snowmobile shall not be operated:

(1) Across or on a plowed public highway unless:

(A) the crossing is made at an angle of approximately 90 degrees to the direction of the highway and at a place where no obstruction prevents a quick and safe crossing; and

(B) the operator brings the snowmobile to a complete stop before entering the travelled portion of the highway; and

(C) the operator yields the right of way to motor vehicles and pedestrians using the highway; and

(D) the operator is 16 years of age or older. If the operator is under 16 years of age but at least 12 years of age that operator must be under the direct supervision of a person 18 years of age or older.

(2) On a public highway, unless it is not being maintained and plowed for use by motor vehicles during the snow season.

(3) On a public highway, unless the operator is not closer than five feet from the plowed portion. However, this section shall not apply to class IV roads or trails that are privately maintained or plowed.

(4) On a public highway, unless the highway has been opened to snowmobile travel by the selectmen or trustees or local governing body and is so posted by the municipality.

(5) On any privately owned land or body of private water unless:

(A) the operator is the owner, or member of the immediate family of the owner or lessee of the land or private body of water; or

(B) the operator has, on his or her person, the written consent of the owner or lessee of the land to operate a snowmobile in the specific area in which the operator is operating, or the snowmobile displays a valid TMA decal as required by subsection 3202(a) of this title that serves as proof that the snowmobile and its operator by virtue of the TMA are members of a VAST-affiliated snowmobile club to which such consent has been given orally or in writing; or

(C) the owner of the land has designated the area for use by snowmobiles by posting the area in a manner approved by the Secretary to give reasonable notice that snowmobiling is permitted.

(6) On any public land, body of public water, or natural area established under the provisions of 10 V.S.A. § 2607, or other State, federal statute, or municipal ordinance, unless the Secretary has designated such area for use by snowmobiles in manners chosen by the Secretary or other public land manager.

(7) By a child under eight years of age unless he or she is on land owned by his or her parents, family, or legal guardian.

(8) By a person born after July 1, 1983, on private or public land and water without first obtaining a certificate of snowmobile education, unless he or she is operating on land owned, leased, or farmed by his or her parents, family, or guardian or the operator is the land owner.

(A) A person who is required to have a certificate of snowmobile education shall:

(i) possess the certificate when operating a snowmobile on public or private lands and waters of the State; and

(ii) show the certificate on demand of an enforcement officer wearing an insignia identifying him or her as a law enforcement officer. However, no person charged with violating this subdivision shall be convicted if the person produces in court, to the officer, or to a State's Attorney, a certificate which was valid at the time the violation occurred.

(B) The following persons are exempt from the requirements of this subdivision:

(i) a person is operating on land owned by his or her parents, family, or guardian or the operator is the landowner;

(ii) any other person exempted by rules of the Department of Public Safety;

(iii) any person who is under the direct supervision of a certified snowmobile safety instructor;

(iv) a child not yet 12 years of age, but not younger than eight when under the direct supervision of a parent or legal guardian who shall be liable for the actions of the child.

(C) The Department of Public Safety shall adopt rules:

(i) That establish criteria for a course of instruction in snowmobile safety education.

(ii) Relating to transient snowmobilers.

(iii) To administer a verbal test when appropriate.

(iv) To coordinate a statewide program of snowmobile safety instruction and certification and ensure that a course of safety education is available within each county.

(v) That a course of snowmobile safety education is available at the age of eight. Any child eight years of age but not yet 12 who passes the course may operate a snowmobile only when under the direct supervision of a parent or legal guardian who shall be liable for the actions of the child.

(D) Any course of snowmobile safety education that is offered shall provide a minimum of six hours of instruction.

(E) Any State-certified instructor may offer a course of instruction in snowmobile safety education approved by the Department of Public Safety.

(F) The Department of Public Safety or its designee shall issue a certificate of snowmobile safety education to a person who:

(i) passes a departmentally prescribed course of snowmobile safety education; or

(ii) passes a snowmobile safety equivalency examination administered by persons authorized to offer a course of snowmobile safety education.

(G) Upon request, the Department of Public Safety shall provide, without charge, snowmobile safety education materials to persons who plan to take the snowmobile safety equivalency examination.

(H) Once issued, the certificate of snowmobile education is valid for the lifetime of the person to whom it was issued and may not be revoked by the Department of Public Safety or a court of law.

(I) The Department of Public Safety shall replace, without charge, a lost or destroyed certificate if the Department issued the certificate or has a record that the certificate was issued.

(J) A snowmobile safety certificate issued in another state or country in accordance with or substantially equivalent to criteria of the International Association of Snowmobile Administrators is sufficient to comply with the requirements of this section.

(9)(A) In any manner intended or could reasonably be expected to, harass, drive, or pursue any wildlife; or

(B) In any manner intended to cause an animal undue pain or suffering.

(10) If the registration certificate or written consent is not available for inspection and the registration number, or plate of a size and type approved by the Commissioner, and TMA decal are not displayed on the snowmobile in a manner approved by the Commissioner. However, a TMA decal need not be displayed if the operator possesses a completed TMA form in accordance with subdivision 3202(a)(7) of this title.

(11) While the operator is under the influence of drugs or alcohol as defined in section 3207a of this title.

(12) In a reckless manner so as to endanger a person or property.

(13) Within any cemetery, public or private, as defined in 18 V.S.A. § 5302.

(14) On limited access highways, rights-of-way, or approaches unless permitted by the Agency of Transportation. In no case shall snowmobiling be permitted on any portion of the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways unless the Agency of Transportation permits operation on such highways.

(15) On a sidewalk unless permitted by the selectmen or trustees or the local governing body.

(16) While the person's privilege to operate a snowmobile has been suspended.

(17) In an unreasonable or imprudent manner, and:

(A) No person shall drive a snowmobile on the Statewide Snowmobile Trail System or a public right-of-way, open to snowmobiling, at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions, having regard for the actual and potential hazards there existing. In every event, speed shall be controlled as necessary to avoid collision with any person, vehicle, snowmobile, or other object on or adjacent to the snowmobile trail.

(B) The operator of every snowmobile shall drive at an appropriate reduced speed when approaching and crossing an intersection or railway grade crossing, when approaching and going around a curve, when approaching a hill crest, when traveling upon any narrow or winding trail, and when a special hazard exists with respect to pedestrians or other traffic by reason of weather or trail conditions.

(C) Snowmobiles operating on a public right-of-way open to snowmobiling shall comply with the provisions established in sections 1003, 1007, and 1008 of this title.

(D) The maximum speed limit on State lands and public waters shall be determined by the Agency of Natural Resources.

(E) Any law enforcement officer or emergency personnel may disregard speed regulations in accordance with section 1015 of this title.

(18) In a commercial manner unless the individual or entity offering the snowmobile for rent or hired for tour, complies with the following:

(A) On any privately owned land or body of private water, unless the individual or entity offering a snowmobile for commercial operation has first obtained the written consent of the snowmobile club responsible for obtaining landowner permission for snowmobile trails and for trail maintenance in that area with consent from the proper owner over whose property the trail passes.

(B) For commercial purposes, on any public land, body of public water, or natural area, unless the individual or entity has first obtained the written consent of the snowmobile club responsible for trail maintenance, and the Secretary or other public land manager has designated such area for use by snowmobiles in a manner chosen by the Secretary or public land manager to give reasonable notice that snowmobiling is permitted. The commercial operation of snowmobiles on public land or public water shall be by permit or license issued by the Secretary or public land manager in a manner chosen by the Secretary or public land manager.

(C) A commercial snowmobile operating on any private or public land, private or public water or natural area shall display a commercial TMA.

(D) A commercial snowmobile operating on any private or public land, private or public water or natural area shall display a decal or flag identifying the individual or entity that owns the snowmobile.

(19) Without liability insurance as described in this subdivision. No owner or operator of a snowmobile shall operate or permit the operation of the snowmobile on the Statewide Snowmobile Trail System or public right of way, except on the property of the owner, without having in effect a liability policy or bond in the amounts of at least $25,000.00 for one person and $50,000.00 for two or more persons killed or injured and $10,000.00 for damages to property in any one accident. In lieu thereof, evidence of self-insurance in the amount of $115,000.00 must be filed with the Commissioner. Such financial responsibility shall be maintained and evidenced in a form prescribed by the Commissioner. The standards and process established in subsection 801(c) of this title shall be adopted.

(20) On the Statewide Snowmobile Trail System or on a public right-of-way after the hour of 11:00 p.m. and before the hour of 6:00 a.m., if requested by the landowner or ordered by a town or municipality through ordinance, unless the operation is more than 500 feet from a residence or residences or the operation is taking place to groom the trail. All trails impacted by this subdivision shall be posted to indicate that they are closed between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.

(21) Without proper head and face protection.

(A) No person shall operate, ride in or on a snowmobile or on a sled or device pulled by a snowmobile on the Statewide Snowmobile Trail System (SSTS) without wearing, upon his or her head, protective headgear of a type approved by the Commissioner, unless the operator of the snowmobile is in the process of grooming the trail. The headgear shall be equipped with a strap to secure the headgear in place.

(B) No person shall operate a snowmobile on the SSTS that is not equipped with a factory-installed or approved factory or aftermarket replacement windshield that adequately protects the operator's face, or the operator shall wear eyeglasses, goggles, or a protective face shield.

(22) During the closed season on the Statewide Snowmobile Trail System or any public land, except for the following purposes:

(A) grooming operations;

(B) trail maintenance; or

(C) search and rescue operations conducted by law enforcement officers defined in subdivision 3302(2) of this title or emergency medical personnel defined in 24 V.S.A. § 2651(6) or emergency use by fire service personnel defined in 20 V.S.A. § 3151 or private individuals who are assisting such officers or personnel.

(23) During the open season when the Statewide Snowmobile Trail System has not been officially opened by the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers, Inc., due to lack of snow or for temporary closures caused by lack of snow or dangerous trail conditions, except for the following purposes:

(A) grooming operations;

(B) trail maintenance; or

(C) search and rescue operations conducted by law enforcement officers defined in subdivision 3302(2) of this title or emergency medical personnel defined in 24 V.S.A. § 2651(6) or emergency use by fire service personnel defined in 20 V.S.A. § 3151 or private individuals who are assisting such officers or personnel.

(c) It shall be an affirmative defense to a prosecution for trespass under subdivision (b)(5) of this section that the operator of the snowmobile was unable, after a reasonable diligent search, to locate, within the State of Vermont, a person with authority to grant or deny such permission.

(d)(1) No public or private landowner or their agents shall be liable for any property damage or personal injury sustained by any person operating or riding as a passenger on a snowmobile, or upon a vehicle or other device drawn by a snowmobile upon the public or private landowner's property, whether or not the public or private landowner has given permission to use the land, unless the public or private landowner charges a cash fee to the operator or owner of the snowmobile for the use of the property, or unless the damage or injury is intentionally inflicted by the landowner.

(2) If VAST has exercised reasonable care in marking the boundaries of the SSTS, it shall not be liable for ordinary negligence for any property damage or personal injury sustained by any person which arises from operation of a snowmobile outside the SSTS. However, VAST's liability shall not be limited under this subdivision if an operator leaves the SSTS because of an unsafe condition on the SSTS and the damage or injury occurs before the operator is able to return safely to the SSTS. (Added 1983, No. 212 (Adj. Sess.), § 2; amended 1987, No. 126 (Adj. Sess.), § 2; 1989, No. 247 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 1993, No. 234 (Adj. Sess.), § 5, eff. Nov. 1, 1994; 1995, No. 64 (Adj. Sess.), § 4, eff. Jan. 30, 1996; 1999, No. 20, §§ 5-7; 2001, No. 126 (Adj. Sess.), § 4, eff. June 12, 2002; 2003, No. 116 (Adj. Sess.), §§ 3, 5; 2015, No. 47, § 47; 2015, No. 102 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 2017, No. 83, § 161(4).)

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