Clarification: “Street Legal” UTVs Not Prohibited in Elkins

Contrary to past messaging on this topic, “street legal” utility terrain vehicles (UTVs) are not prohibited from being operated on public streets in the City of Elkins. ATVs, however, remain prohibited on city streets under current city law. Both may be operated on private property. Read on to learn more about what “street legal” UTVs are and the current city and state laws pertaining to them.

Background

Until 2020, state law prohibited all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and utility terrain vehicles (UTVs) from traveling on public streets and highways, except for the purpose of crossing them.

In 2001, the Elkins Common Council adopted its own ordinance prohibiting use of ATVs (as defined in W. Va. Code § 17-A-1-1(ii)) on city streets. This 2001 ordinance remains in effect today.

Definitions

Current W. Va. Code defines ATVs as:

“[A]ny motor vehicle designed for off-highway use and designed to travel on not less than three low-pressure or nonhighway tires, is 50 inches or less in width and intended by the manufacturer to be used by a single operator or is specifically designed by the manufacturer with seating for each passenger. “All-terrain vehicle” and “ATV” does not include mini trucks, golf carts, riding lawnmowers, electric bicycles as defined in §17C-1-70 of this code, or tractors.” (W. Va. Code § 17-A-1-1(ii))

Current W. Va. Code defines UTVs as:

“[A]ny motor vehicle with four or more low-pressure or nonhighway tires designed for off-highway use and is greater than 50 inches in width. “Utility terrain vehicle” does not include mini trucks, golf carts, riding lawnmowers, or tractors.” (W. Va. Code § 17-A-1-1(vv))

2020 Change to State Code

During the West Virginia Legislature’s 2020 session, lawmakers amended state law to create a framework under which certain ATVs and UTVs could be operated legally on public streets and highways.

Under the new law, W. Va. Code §17A-13-1, ATVs and UTVs that (1) comply with all of that law’s stipulated requirements (including but not limited to headlamps, tail lamps, windshields, mufflers, and similar items) and (2) are registered with the Division of Motor Vehicles in the same manner as motorcycles (including displaying a Class G registration plate) may be operated on most public streets and highways. (Exceptions include controlled-access highways, such as interstates.)

Implications for Elkins

Admittedly, W. Va. Code 17A-13-1 does not require cities to allow the operation of even “street legal” UTVs or ATVs. Instead, in essence, this law states that “the county, municipality, or Division of Natural Resources… [may] prohibit… special purpose vehicles.”

Elkins does not prohibit both categories of these vehicles, however. Although Elkins law does prohibit ATVs from being operated on city streets, there is no prohibition concerning UTVs.

Therefore, under current state and city laws, it is permitted for UTVs meeting the requirements of §17A-13-1 to be operated on city streets. Changing this would require new action by council.

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