Iowa lawmakers eye expanded ATV operation

Measure would allow all-terrain vehicle registered with the DOT to be operated on secondary roads

Rod Boshart
Published: April 17 2013 | 3:55 pm - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 2:09 pm in

DES MOINES – All-terrain vehicles could be licensed to operate on secondary roads in Iowa under a House-passed bill that won unanimous support from the Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday.

House File 619 would allow “road-ready” ATVs with four or more wheels and equipped with front and rear lights, mirrors and turn signals to be driven by operators aged 16 years or older on some hard-surface or gravel roads once they were registered and licensed by the state Department of Transportation. The annual registration fee would be $50.

The measure, which passed the Iowa House last week, provides that an all-terrain vehicle registered with the DOT may be operated on secondary roads but not on primary highways -- except to cross over a primary highway -- and not on highways within the corporate limits of a city except where all-terrain vehicles are permitted by ordinance.

“This is about tourism, economic development and entertainment value,” said Sen. Tod Bowman, D-Maquoketa, who noted that his constituents in Jackson County want to establish ATV trails for organized rides that require access to some roads.

The bill specifies that a licensed operator of an all-terrain vehicle must carry proof of motor vehicle financial liability coverage. Current speed limits apply to all-terrain vehicles operated on a highway, except that an all-terrain vehicle may not be operated at a speed exceeding 45 miles per hour.

Currently, Iowa law defines an “all-terrain vehicle” as a motor vehicle designed to travel on three or more wheels and designed primarily for off-road recreational use. The definition includes off-road utility vehicles, but excludes farm tractors or equipment, construction equipment, forestry vehicles, and lawn and grounds maintenance vehicles.

All-terrain vehicles – currently regulated by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources -- are not permitted on Iowa roads, except under limited circumstances.

Under current law, a person who operates an all-terrain vehicle on a highway in violation of current restrictions commits a simple misdemeanor punishable by a scheduled fine of $50.

H.F. 619, which now goes to the Senate Ways and Means Committee for consideration, establishes the same penalty for a person who operates a registered all-terrain vehicle in violation of minimum age and licensing requirements or on a highway where ATV operation is not authorized.

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