Public Safety

Is 16 too young to drive an ATV on county roads?

Sheriff thinks yes, Des Moines County supervisor disagrees

The Gazette

A line of ATVs and UTVs are on display in a store in Vinton. The Des Moines County supervisors are currently discussion whetehr they want to play an age limit for youths operating the off-road vehicles, and whether the vehicles can be driven on paved county roads.
The Gazette A line of ATVs and UTVs are on display in a store in Vinton. The Des Moines County supervisors are currently discussion whetehr they want to play an age limit for youths operating the off-road vehicles, and whether the vehicles can be driven on paved county roads.

BURLINGTON — The Des Moines County supervisors are considering an age limit for youths operating ATVs and UTVs.

Sheriff Mike Johnstone is adamant no one under 18 should be allowed to operate an all-terrain or utility task vehicle on county roads.

“When you turn 18, you’re an adult and the responsibility falls on you a lot heavier than when you’re a 16-year-old kid,” Johnstone said.

He referenced the fatal UTV accident of June 24 in Lee County the killed a 13-year-old girl when a 16-year-old was driving the UTV.

“If I thought that 16-year-olds could handle this responsibility, I would say, ‘Go for it.’ I don’t think they are,” he told the supervisors this week. “I think you have to make them adults, and that’s my opinion from a public safety position.”

Supervisor Jim Cary disagreed, arguing if someone could get a driver’s license at age 16, they also should be able to operate the vehicles in question.

“I think if they’ve got a driver’s license and can go out here and get in your car, my car, and run down the road 100 miles an hour and break the law, they’re just as responsible to get on that ATV and break the law,” Cary said. “As long as they have the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) training, ... I don’t see anything wrong with having a 16-year-old on an ATV.”

paved vs. gravel

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Supervisors also debated how long the vehicles should be allowed on paved roads as opposed to gravel.

An ordinance under consideration states that an ATV or UTV is permitted only on the roadway or shoulder, “not in the ditch or the area between the edge of the shoulder or the bottom of the ditch.”

It does not specify how long the special vehicles can remain on a paved road before reverting back to gravel.

Supervisor Tom Broeker said he was concerned, with the proposed speed limit for the vehicles at 35 mph, it would be unsafe and disruptive to traffic for the vehicles to be on paved roads for long periods of time, particularly on busy county roads..

Des Moines County Engineer Brian Carter agreed, saying ATV/UTV use on paved roads should be “minimized.”

Currently, it is illegal in Des Moines County for anyone except farmers and others with an agricultural exemption to use the vehicles on county roads.

No decisions were made, and the discussion will continue next week.

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