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ATV, UTV ordinances across Southeast Iowa

File photo

ATVs and UTVs are legally operatable on roads in Washington and Jefferson Counties but come with a variety of restrictions.
File photo ATVs and UTVs are legally operatable on roads in Washington and Jefferson Counties but come with a variety of restrictions.

ATV and UTV riders in southeast Iowa have options for where to ride their vehicles but many restrictions apply. While not all counties have ordinances that allow for riding, those that do have reported no problems with their ordinances so far.

In Jefferson County, ATV/UTV users are allowed to operate their vehicles on all county roadways according to the ordinance. Operation is only allowed from one hour after sunrise to one hour before sunset.

The vehicles must not travel faster than 35 miles per hour, be driven in a careless or reckless manner, while the driver is under the influence, without headlights and taillights, without everyone in the vehicle using a seat belt and without brakes, the ordinance states. The vehicles are to be driven on the shoulder of the roadway when space is available and all riders are encouraged, but not required, to wear protective headgear at all times.

To obtain a permit, drivers must apply for one from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. Proof of valid driver’s license, registration and insurance is required in order to obtain a permit the ordinance states.

Permit holders will be given a stick to place on the left rear of the vehicle and most be placed so it can be easily seen by others viewing the vehicle, according to the ordinance. Permits are valid for one year from July 1 through June 30.

Jefferson County Sherriff Gregg Morton said so far this year 61 permits have been issued. That is about average compared to years past, he said.

The City of Fairfield also has an ordinance that allows drivers to operate vehicles in city limits. When it comes to the county ordinance, Morton said drivers need to stay off the highway according to state law but have very few restrictions otherwise.

It is preferred drivers do not use Class C roads, dirt roads, he said because of the damage the machines can cause. Vehicles being used for farming or as an authorized emergency vehicle are exempt from the requirements per Iowa Code.

Having had the ordinance in effect since 2016, Morton said there were very few complaints before it went into effect and none after as well.

“We have written zero tickets and had no complaints,” he said.

In Washington County drivers must adhere to the same restrictions as Jefferson County including not driving with a firearm in the driver’s possession unless it is unloaded and enclosed in a carrying case. A non-ambulatory person may carry an unloaded and uncased firearm while operating the vehicle, per Iowa code.

The vehicle must not be operated by more people than it was intended to carry and the driver must be at least 16-years-old, the vehicle registered with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and with the county, according to the ordinance.

To obtain a permit drivers must apply to the county engineer and provide a valid driver’s license, registration and insurance. The permit will be granted for one year and be valid from Jan. 1 until Dec. 31. If the permit holder has violated the conditions of the permit the county engineer may suspend or revoke the permit, according to the ordinance. No refund will be given and in order to re obtain a permit the driver must revive a majority vote from the Board of Supervisors.

Riders in Henry County are not allowed on county roads despite their best efforts to reverse the decision. In April 2019 a group approached the Henry County Board of Supervisors requesting an ordinance that would allow their usage on county roads but were struck down.

The same group has repeatedly returned to the board to ask it to reconsider. In December 2019 a petition with 574 signatures was presented but after it was discovered there were only 281 signatures of residents within Henry County that signed, the board failed to adopt an ordinance.