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Elkins clarifies ATV/UTV law

ELKINS — Elkins officials clarified Friday that “street legal” utility terrain vehicles — UTVs — may be operated on city streets, although all terrain vehicles — ATVs — cannot.

On Sept. 20, the City of Elkins issued a press release saying residents have been complaining about ATVs running on city streets, and reminding residents that Elkins City Council voted down an ordinance in February that would have allowed ATV use in the city.

“Contrary to past messaging on this topic, ‘street legal’ utility terrain vehicles are not prohibited from being operated on public streets in the City of Elkins. ATVs, however, remain prohibited on city streets under current city law,” a Friday City of Elkins press release states. “Both may be operated on private property.”

“During the West Virginia Legislature’s 2020 session, lawmakers amended state law to create a framework under which certain ATVs and UTVs could be operated legally on public streets and highways,” the release states.

“Elkins does not prohibit both categories of these vehicles, however. Although Elkins law does prohibit ATVs from being operated on city streets, there is no prohibition concerning UTVs,” the release continues.

“Therefore, under current state and city laws, it is permitted for UTVs meeting the requirements of (state law) to be operated on city streets. Changing this would require new action by council.”

The City of Elkins press release also explains the definition of “street legal” UTVs.

“Current W. Va. Code defines UTVs as: ‘(A)ny motor vehicle with four or more low-pressure or nonhighway tires designed for off-highway use and is greater than 50 inches in width. “Utility terrain vehicle” does not include mini trucks, golf carts, riding lawnmowers, or tractors,” according to the city press release.

“Under the new law, W. Va. Code §17A-13-1, ATVs and UTVs that (1) comply with all of that law’s stipulated requirements (including but not limited to headlamps, tail lamps, windshields, mufflers, and similar items) and (2) are registered with the Division of Motor Vehicles in the same manner as motorcycles (including displaying a Class G registration plate) may be operated on most public streets and highways (Exceptions include controlled-access highways, such as interstates).” the release states.

Elkins City Council voted down a proposed ordinance on Feb. 18 that would have allowed ATVs to drive on city streets.

The proposal had been returned to the Rules and Ordinance Committee for revision after it divided council on a 5-5 vote in December 2020.

On Nov. 19, 2020, former Elkins Mayor Van Broughton broke a 5-5 tie by casting his vote to approve on first reading the original proposed ordinance. The tie vote came after a lengthy and at time contentious discussion on the ATV ordinance by council members, as well as a motion to send the ordinance back to the committee to be revised — that vote also resulted in a 5-5 tie.

Council voted 6-4 in early December 2020 to send back to the Rules and Ordinance Committee for review the controversial proposed ordinance. The ordinance had been set for a vote on its second and final reading at that council meeting.

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