Is Rear Steering Street Legal?
One of the most complex improvements that can be made to a 4x4 vehicle is to make the rear wheels steerable. When installed correctly, rear steering (four wheel steering) will significantly improve a vehicle's turning radius and allow for crab-walking (where all four wheels are turned in the same direction).
Not a single state references rear steering or four wheel steering in their street legal laws. Even the USDOT lacks insight on rear steering systems and their legality. As such, one must assume that four wheel steering fall into the category of "legal as long as it is safe and complies with all other street-legal equipment laws."
To further support this claim, a handful of automakers have actually produced and sold vehicles equipped with four wheel steering systems. General Motors, for example, offered their Quadrasteer system on trucks manufactured from 2002 to 2005. The system was only discontinued because it was not a profitable option.
Although four wheel steering does not appear to be illegal, there are several things to keep in mind when considering this modification. One risk is violating a catch-all rule that prohibits the use of unsafe equipment. Using rear steering on the street can be an open invitation for a police officer to come and take a closer look.
If an officer doesn't like what he sees, a fix-it ticket will be issued to the driver and, unfortunately, there are no good solutions here. The driver can attempt to argue the ticket in court by convincing the judge that the home-made rear steering system is safe. When that fails, the rear steering system can be locked (bolted in such a way that it is inoperable) in hopes that it will pass a tech inspection. If that doesn't work, then the rear axle will need to be replaced with a factory axle.
As nasty as those options are, they are not the worst case scenario. The biggest worry should be having the rear steering system fail, causing an accident. Lawyers for any injured person will have the vehicle inspected for modifications and they will not miss an obvious one like an aftermarket rear steering axle.
Luckily, these risks can be easily mitigated. First, the rear steering system should be designed, built, and installed by a professional. Then, the steering mechanism should be locked or bolted in such a way that it cannot be used on public streets. Finally, a solid insurance policy needs to be purchased from a reputable insurance company that has been made aware of the vehicle's modifications.
Four wheel steering can be an excellent advantage for an off-road vehicle, but it can also be very dangerous if it is not installed, used, or maintained properly. LiftLaws.com strongly believes that rear steering should not be installed on vehicles driven on the street and should never be used on public roads.
$300 LIFTLAWS.COM BOUNTY - Anyone that provides us with documentation that shows that rear steering is illegal in any state or sends us a copy of a fix-it ticket they received for running a rear steering system will have $300 donated to the BlueRibbon Coalition in their name.
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