W.Va. county officials may consider stricter ATV laws

March 16, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

Eastern Panhandle, W.Va. - As one county sheriff referred to the state's first all-terrain vehicle law as "absolutely useless," officials in Berkeley and Jefferson counties say they want to consider tougher ATV regulations for their own communities, including possibly banning the vehicles from all roads.

West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise last week signed into law a bill that regulates ATVs, which have drawn the ire of some Eastern Panhandle residents for the way they are being used on local roads.

Among the regulations under the new state law:

  • ATVs cannot be driven on roads with center lines or more than two lanes, except to cross them at a 90-degree angle.

  • ATVs are allowed on the shoulder of roads with center lines or more than two lanes at speeds of 25 mph for up to 10 miles.

  • ATVs can be driven on unlined roads.

The wording of the state law creates more problems in terms of regulating ATVs, said Berkeley County Sheriff Randy Smith.


Jefferson County Sheriff Everett "Ed" Boober called the state law "absolutely useless" and said he thought the lawmakers who put it together are "out of touch with reality."

Under a provision in the state law, counties can pass tougher ATV laws if they have comprehensive plans, which all three Eastern Panhandle counties have.

Berkeley and Jefferson county officials said Monday they want to study drafting their own ATV laws, possibly going as far as prohibiting ATVs on all roads.

Officials in the two counties say they are swamped with ATV complaints from local residents.

"It's the No. 2 complaint in the county. No. 1 is dog-related," said Berkeley County Commission President Howard Strauss.

Danger every day

Boober said his department gets a "tremendous amount" of ATV complaints and he said "hardly a day goes by" when he does not see someone driving an ATV in a dangerous manner on a local road.

Boober said he would encourage the Jefferson County Commission to adopt a stronger ATV law, one that would ban the vehicles from all county roads.

Although he did not say what kind of ATV law he would like to pursue, Jefferson County Commissioner Greg Corliss said he thinks the commission should study the idea of drafting its own ATV law. The commission has not discussed the issue much, Corliss said.

"I think everyone is concerned about ATV regulation," said Corliss, who said he often sees ATVs going past his house in Shenandoah Junction, W.Va., with "great regularity and great speed."

Kanawha and Putnam counties, in the southern part of the state, are looking into creating their own ATV laws and Strauss said he has asked the commission's staff to see what those two counties come up with to use as a possible model ordinance.

Although Strauss said the county could consider an ATV law that would ban the vehicles on all roads, he stressed that he wants the commission to discuss the matter first. Strauss said it was equally important for the county to set up a public hearing to gauge the opinions of residents.

The county could consider allowing ATVs on private roads, Strauss said. That could bring up other issues, such as what ATV riders would be allowed to do if they had to cross a public road while riding ATVs on private roads, Strauss said.

"You have to look at every little thing," Strauss said.

Strauss said the commission probably would not be able to take up the issue of a countywide ATV law until after March 26. The commissioners are working to finalize next year's budget, Strauss said.

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