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ATVs now allowed to drive on W.Va. roads

Gravely Polaris of Dunbar manager Matt Smalley unpacks tires needed to make certain ATVs street...
Gravely Polaris of Dunbar manager Matt Smalley unpacks tires needed to make certain ATVs street legal under a new West Virginia law.(WSAZ)
Published: Sep. 3, 2020 at 5:53 PM EDT
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DUNBAR, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Riders are now allowed to drive their ATV and other off-road vehicles on most West Virginia roads, under Senate Bill 690 passed in March.

The law was written and co-sponsored by Sen. Mark Maynard, R-Wayne, and aimed to expand on legislation passed in the early 2000s that allowed ATVs to be driven on the side of certain roads without mandating safety precautions.

“This adds safety requirements and also gives the owner and operator peace of mind knowing they went through the process with the DMV and got tags and insurance,” Maynard said. “I hoped it would be a good thing for the state.”

The bill allows the traditionally off-road vehicles to be operated on roadways for up to 20 miles. This allows people to access trails without using a trailer, easily fill up on gas in the middle of a trip and do farm work, Maynard said.

In order to ride on the road, an ATV must comply with a number of regulations including having turn signals, rear view mirrors, a horn and DOT-rated tires. The inspection, registration and insurance process is completed with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

“This is one step that will allow us to become more noticed and maybe help the economy of West Virginia,” Maynard said.

Many people are already rushing to get their vehicles modified to be able to drive on the roads, Gravely Polaris of Dunbar manager Matt Smalley said. He has been getting around five calls per day from people asking what needs to be done to make existing off-roaders road legal.

It’s gotten to the point that Gravely Polaris has started keeping turn signal kits and road-approved tires in stock to avoid having to constantly order them. Smalley said the typical upgrade to make a side-by-side street legal is $1,000 to $1,500.

“We see so many people from Ohio, just because West Virginia is attractive to them,” Smalley said. “They can get outdoors. They have the mountains, the beauty, and I see it making a big tourist attraction from the side-by-side and off road business.”

Smalley said this legislation has also opened the market up to people who do not want to buy or have room to store a trailer. They can now ride straight from their house to the nearest trail head and make their way from there.

“It is getting pricey,” Smalley said. “But we have customers willing to pay the money for the convenience of being able to ride from the house.”

These vehicles are not allowed on all roads, even if they comply with all regulations. They are not allowed on limited access highways, like interstates, and counties and municipalities can ban them from their roadways.

One large area they are not allowed is Kanawha County, under an ordinance passed by the County Commission in 2004.

Smalley said people have gotten arrested and had their ATV impounded for riding completely approved vehicles on county roadways since the state law went into affect.

After hearing multiple similar stories, Maynard has reached out to the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department, Prosecuting Attorney and County Commission about possibly changing the ordinance. Maynard said vehicle safety has greatly improved since it was first put into place, and this new law adds regulations that were not previously mandated.

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