ATV ordinance passes first readingPublic hearing draws both support and opposition for proposed ordinance
After a public hearing on the pros and cons of ATV use on county roads, the Washington County Board of Supervisors approved the first reading of an ordinance regarding the use of ATVs 4 to 1, with Bob Yoder casting the sole ‘nay’ vote.
During discussion, Yoder said that he would have preferred the ordinance to only allow “side-by-side” vehicles on the roadways and, if the ordinance is successful after a year, for the board to revisit it regarding 4-wheel ATVs. The board also determined that a violation of the proposed ordinance was a simple misdemeanor punished by a fine between $65 and $315 and up to 30 days in jail. Board chairman Steve Davis said the issue could be discussed further during the next two readings needed to approve the ordinance.
A public hearing was held before the vote. A contingent from the Washington County Traffic Safety Coalition spoke against the ordinance, citing the safety hazards of allowing ATVs on the roadway.
“Our purpose here today is to educate the board and the public of the dangers of on-road ATV use,” Lynn Fisher, a member of the coalition, said.
She said one out of three ATV crashes in Iowa involves a crash with another motor vehicle. Fatal on-road crashes with ATVs were more likely to involve multiple deaths, she said. She also spoke of the commonness of head and traumatic brain injuries in the accidents.
Coalition member Danielle Pettit-Majewski stressed that ATVs are designed for off-road use only and that manufacturers state that ATVs are not meant for use on public roads. She also said there is limited public knowledge regarding the ordinance and she did not feel the public was aware of the risk surrounding the ordinance. She also said the county could face liability if it approved a known safety hazard.
During the presentation, Kari Harland of the University of Iowa spoke in opposition to the ordinance. Also a Washington County resident, Harland has co-authored an article promoting the safe use of ATVs.
The group also distributed a letter from the Iowa Public Health Association opposing the ordinance. A petition from Washington County residents opposing the ordinance was also given to the board.
“I understand they have a petition of people opposing the regulation. I think the group sponsoring this to begin with submitted a petition of some 250 names of people who were in favor of it,” speaker Steve Messinger said. “Obviously there are several people out there who want it. And that was just a small percentage of the county. There were no petitions that I know of circulated in Washington or Brighton.”
He said that he believed the ordinance covered everything needed and encouraged the board to approve the ordinance.
Speaker Chris Graber said that she has ridden a 4-wheeler for 25 years and has never had an accident. She said that most users don’t drive faster than they can control. She also said that ATV use speaks to the freedom of the people in society.
“The government should have no interest in what we can do as free people – unless we are not free people,” she said. “If I am owned and am the property of the government and am a slave, then they have all kinds of interest in what happens to you.”
The supervisors also took the opportunity to speak on their feeling on the ordinance.
Supervisor Stan Stoops said the majority of people he had talked to had been in favor of the ordinance and he had campaigned on voting for the will of the people.
Davis said that he believed an ordinance may come up at the state level regarding the issue.
“I’ve heard more pros and than cons,” said supervisor Richard Young.
Supervisor Jack Seward Jr. said that freedom and responsibility are being taken away from people in many cases from what he calls “nanny government.”
Washington County Sheriff Jerry Dunbar said that he did not care to put someone in jail for riding an ATV.
Only about 20 people attended the public hearing. Young said that the supervisors had moved their meeting to a courtroom in the Washington County Courthouse because more people were expected to give input.