With warmer weather moving in, many people are eager to get out and enjoy it. In rural areas like Summers County, one of the primary ways to enjoy the outdoors is by riding ATVs and UTVs. There are many trails and areas that are available for this exact purpose. Also, the state of West Virginia updated the laws surrounding ATVs to include a way to make them legal to drive on public roadways that do not exceed a speed limit of 55 mph. There is a specific process involved in making an ATV road legal and all steps must be completed.
Unfortunately, many Summers County residents, particularly in the Nimitz area have reportedly been experiencing some issues related to the use of ATVs. This has created concern among those who feel there is a problem. One resident, Barbara Sears stated, “We have a sign at my house saying 30 MPH but they’ll go 60 or higher at night.” Another Nimitz resident Kristina Kellan stated that ATV drivers have been “parking in my driveway and revving their engines” late at night. Kellan went on to say that this often wakes her young daughter. Other residents of the area, Pamela Meadows and Danielle Harmon both said they haven’t had any issues. Harmon said, “I live in Nimitz, have for 27 years and I haven’t ever had any issues.”
The Summers County Sheriff’s Department has reached out to address these concerns as much as possible. Both Sheriff Faris and Chief Deputy Adkins emphasized that they will do everything within their power to ensure the law is being upheld. They noted that while it is legal for an ATV to be on a public roadway, there are strict specifications that must first be met. This includes “one or more headlamps, one or more tail lamps, one or more brake lamps and a lamp specifically for illuminating the registration plate with a white light.” In addition, it must also have turn signals front and back on both sides. Other requirements include a horn or other warning device, a braking system other than a parking brake, one or more red reflectors and a muffler where required by law.
Youths under the age of 18 years old, must follow additional guidelines when riding or driving an ATV. For example, anyone under 18 must wear a helmet at all times while driving an ATV or riding as a passenger. Drivers under 18 must complete a safety class, gaining a certificate. If the youth has a driver’s license, they do not need to take the safety class.
Sheriff Faris and Chief Deputy Adkins both noted that even an ATV that has been fully upgraded to be road legal cannot do certain things. This includes driving recklessly, speeding and parking in private driveways. Also, in a public statement by the Sheriff’s office, they note that “any city or HOA still have the authority to implement discretionary ordinances that prohibit the operation of said vehicles within city limits or HOA limits.”
In addressing Kellen’s concern over individuals parking in her driveway, Chief Deputy Adkins said, if someone is parking in a private driveway, that becomes trespassing.
The Sheriff also wants citizens to know that “…we are not out to get anyone that operates an ATV on public highways.” The statement goes on to say, “In fact, we encourage people to enjoy their vehicles in a safe and legal manner.” They continue saying that the reason for making this statement is that they have “received an enormous amount of complaints in reference to ATVs and UTVs driving recklessly and we are simply trying to get ahead of it.”
Finally, the statement concludes by saying, “If you are operating an ATV or UTV on a public highway, please be safe. We urge anyone that wants to drive recklessly to understand that their lives aren’t the only ones at risk.”