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More ATVs on Utah streets, thanks to law change

By Lynn R. Blamires, Standard-Examiner Contributor - | Apr 22, 2015

Senate Bill 258 passed through the 2015 Utah legislative session with little fanfare. Last year the law was changed to allow street-legal ATVs access to streets in all counties except Salt Lake. Interstate and limited-access roads were once off limits, but on May 12, along with other changes, the restriction from limited-access highways will be lifted. After the 12th, interstate highways are the only roads on which these machines will not be allowed to travel.

Before the change, confusion existed on some sections of limited-access roadways. The idea that machines previously thought of as off-road being allowed on city streets did not spread like wildfire in spite of a concerted effort to educate law enforcement agencies across the state.

Some owners of street-legal ATVs like the novelty of making a trip to the local grocery store, but do not like what pavement does to off-road knobby tires. While tires are available for these machines to use for road riding, it may be one reason we have not seen drivers out en masse. Greg Belnap of Triple S Polaris in West Warren said he thinks that this year will be different.

“Half of all the machines we sell are equipped with all the street-legal requirements. I think you will see a lot of machines on the streets this year,” Belnap said. He also said that manufacturers are designing dual-purpose tires that will better meet the needs of those who want to ride in the dirt and on the street.

To accommodate road riders, the ATV speed limit is being increased to 50 mph. Drivers who choose to travel higher-speed highways are asked to ride in the far right lane so as not to impede faster traffic.

The tire height restriction of 29 inches is also being removed. The restriction is shifted to the definition section of the law. Instead of worrying about tire size, the seat height will now be the focus. The height of the seat cannot be more than 40 inches or less than 20 inches as measured from the underside of the front of the seat to the ground. Also, street-legal machines will not be required to have mud flaps or fender extensions.

The equipment required for a machine to be street legal has been defined since 2008. The changes to the law that came out of this session further define those parameters.

One issue that is still unresolved lies with the Department of Motor Vehicles. The intent of the law, as it was changed, was to have the fees for a street-legal machine to be the same as for a motorcycle that also has off-road capabilities. That has not happened. The DMV has chosen a different rate for street-legal ATVs and UTVs. Under these parameters, a rider can be charged both on-road and off-road fees even though a motorcycle is exempt from those charges.

As an example, the fee for registering a 2013 motorcycle is about $85. The fee for a street-legal UTV of the same model year is over $130. If a driver registers a UTV for off-road purposes using the same model year, the fee will be $68.50. Several months later, if he chooses to equip his machine to meet the street-legal requirements, then applies to the DMV for the required plate, he will be charged the $5 fee for the plate plus $130 to be street legal. If you buy a machine and have the dealer equip it to be street legal, because the dealer can only register it for off-road use, you will pay the double fee.

The road to street-legal privileges has been a bumpy one, but the law is changing and uses for ATVs and UTVs are increasing. 

Lynn R. Blamires can be reached at quadmanone@gmail.com

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