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Floyd County considers county road ATV and UTV regulations

Floyd County considers county road ATV and UTV regulations
Floyd County Supervisor Linda Tjaden and Brian Shindelar, site manager for the Samuels Group, show off the banner signifying that the county law enforcement center construction project is one of 10 projects in the state selected as a partnership with the Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The selection was announced at the Floyd County Board of Supervisors meeting Monday morning. The partnership means that Iowa OSHA will meet with the construction manager and subcontractors monthly to discuss safety concerns. The goal is to go beyond the minimum safety regulations to make the project as safe as possible, Tjaden said. (Submitted photo)
By Bob Steenson,

Floyd County supervisors got their first look at a potential new ATV and UTV ordinance for the county at their workshop meeting Monday morning.

It will likely be at least several months before the board takes action on the proposed law — if it takes any action at all. The next scheduled discussion was set for the board meeting April 14.

Supervisors have discussed the topic occasionally since last March, when a rural resident of the county, Chuck Meyer, asked the board to consider allowing all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and utility task vehicles (UTVs) to use county roads.

In general, ATVs are designed for one or two riders, sitting astride a seat like riding a motorcycle and steering with handlebars, while UTVs are wider, with a bench seat or individual seats that are positioned side by side and are steered with a steering wheel. A UTV also often has a more complete lighting system, windshield and safety features such as seat belts or harnesses.

ATVs are usually designed as recreational vehicles, while UTVs are more often work vehicles, although there is some overlap between the two categories.

These vehicles are already allowed to use county roads for agricultural uses under state law, but Meyer asked to have that expanded to recreational uses and for more general travel.

Supervisor Doug Kamm said about half the counties in the state have addressed the issue by establishing ATV and UTV rules of varying stringency.

The two examples the board members have referred to most frequently are a resolution passed by the Mitchell County Board of Supervisors that is fairly liberal in where it allows use, and a Cerro Gordo County ordinance that is very detailed in what it allows and where.

Supervisor Linda Tjaden said she asked Assistant County Attorney Randy Tilton to “modify Cerro Gordo’s down … to see what a draft might look like.”

Tilton told the supervisors Monday that state law contains some regulations on ATV and UTV use, but also gives counties the option to designate county roads where they can be driven and make other requirements, as long as they don’t conflict with state law.

He said several of the references in his draft ordinance, such as definitions of the types of vehicles and state registration, refer to existing state code.

The draft county ordinance presented by Tilton says ATVs and UTVs can be operated on roadways in the unincorporated areas of Floyd County, except:

• They cannot be driven on state highways.
• They cannot be driven on any hard-surface roads that have a speed limit of 55 mph.
• They cannot be driven on any land under the control of the Floyd County Conservation Board.
• They cannot be driven in a manner that disrupts or moves the surface material on the roadway or that would require extra maintenance.

Operators would need to be at least 16 years old and have a valid driver’s license, and operators under the age of 18 would need to have taken an education course and have an education certificate.

The ordinance would also require that no ATV or UTV be operated at greater than 35 mph, that operators have liability insurance similar to that required for motor vehicles such as cars and that they carry proof of liability insurance with them, and that the ATVs or UTVs be registered with the state.

Although the supervisors have briefly discussed the topic of ATV and UTV use with County Engineer Dusten Rolando and Sheriff Jeff Crooks in the past, the board members said they want to get their reaction, along with reaction from Floyd County Conservation, specifically to the draft ordinance.

The supervisors also touched on the issue of liability for the county if it passes the ordinance.

Kamm said some of the ATV/UTV rules he read from other counties included requirements for county registration to raise enough money to cover increased insurance premiums.

Tilton said, “I could see some potential reason for a rate increase on insurance. You’re potentially increasing the number of uses of the roadway. An ATV is more like a motorcycle than an automobile. If you have an accident on an ATV there’s a greater risk of injury.”

Mark Melrose, of Melrose Insurance Center Inc. of Charles City, the county’s insurance representative, was at the meeting for another topic, but said he would look into whether the ordinance would raise the county’s liability premium.

The supervisors set their regular meeting on Tuesday, April 14, to discuss the proposal again. Although the supervisors could vote to pass the ordinance then, they indicated Monday that it would likely be discussion only at that meeting.

An ordinance requires reading and approval at three successive regular meetings to take effect, unless a majority of the board votes to waive one or two of the readings.