The Iowa House has passed a bill that would allow all-terrain vehicles on all rural roads and county highways in Iowa.
Four-wheel ATVs currently can be driven on those roads if they’re being used for farming and some cities and counties have ordinances allowing ATVs on local roads. Representative Kurt Hansen, a Democrat from Fairfield, said he’s heard from rural Iowans who aren’t thrilled with the idea of letting anyone drive an ATV on a rural road.
“Their concern is that they have a lot of remote properties — their properties are vulnerable to theft and vandalism — and they’re worried about a new group of people coming into the county, operating these vehicles and harming their property,” Hansen said. “The concern also centered around people going down a narrow gravel road with a hill and finding one of these vehicles driven down the highway. Now we have just a few. Could this open it up to just a whole bunch of vehicles?”
Representative Sally Stutsman, a Democrat from Riverside, said the bill should have required safety equipment on ATVs — like seat belts and roll-bars — if these vehicles are going to be driven on roads.
“I continue to have grave concerns about allowing the use of vehicles that the manufacturers specifically say are not to be used on roads,” Stutsman said. “…What makes these such good vehicles for off-roads are the very things that makes them dangerous for on-roads.”
Representative Mary Mascher, a Democrat from Iowa City, said she’s talked to her brother about ATVs — because he sells them.
“And he has said these were never, ever, ever meant to be ridden on the road,” Mascher said. “They were not constructed for that.”
The House passed the bill by a wide margin — a vote of 70 to 28. Representative Brian Moore, a Republican from Bellevue, was the only House member to speak in favor of the bill.
“I do know where these particular vehicles are riding now where they’re forced to ride out in pastures or timber ground or even parks where they don’t know the layout and you can’t see the layout of the ground,” Moore said. “I think the gravel road system we have and the secondary system I think is going to be a much safer place than what they have offered to them now.”
A similar bill recently passed a Senate committee. A bill to allow ATVs on rural roads passed the Republican-led House during the 2013 legislative session, but stalled in the Democratically-controlled Senate. A legislative committee then studied the issue last fall, hearing from both sides in the debate.