Members of the Oklahoma House Transportation Subcommittee are considering whether to draft legislation making four-wheeled all-terrain and side-by-side utility vehicles “street legal.
State Representatives Wallace Collins (D-Norman) and Joe Dorman (D-Rush Springs) requested a study to determine the viability of licensing street-legal all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and utility vehicles (UTVs) and allowing citizens to operate them in town and on county and state highways.
“Fuel prices and convenience are the driving forces behind these studies,” said Dorman, D-Rush Springs. “Two-wheeled motorcycles are legal, so why not four-wheeled motorcycles? That is essentially what we are talking about here. These vehicles can easily be made safe for the road and would save citizens a tremendous amount of money at the gas pump.”
Four-wheeled ATVs, commonly referred to as “four-wheelers” or “quads,” are defined by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as a vehicle that travels on low pressure tires, with a seat that is straddled by the operator and uses handlebars for steering control. The Collins study focused primarily on ATV use on streets.
UTVs are similar to ATVs, but combine a truck-style utility bed with a side-by-side seating arrangement and a steering wheel on a four-wheeled chassis. They typically weigh less than 1,500 pounds and include the Kubota RTV Series, Kawasaki Mule, Polaris Ranger and Yamaha Rhino, among others. These vehicles were examined in the Dorman interim study.
Under current state law, neither type of vehicle is allowed on public roads or within municipal city limits. It was noted during the study, however, that golf carts are allowed on city streets if the municipality allows by local ordinance.
Dorman said ATVs and UTVs could easily be converted to conform to state safety requirements, including adding mirrors, headlights and brake lights, turn signals, license plates and highway-rated tires, which are typically more inflated than off-road tires and make a vehicle more stable and maneuverable.
In addition, UTVs come equipped with steel roll-cages and seatbelts and can be fitted with doors.
Dorman also noted that while an ATV with an engine of 250cc or larger can easily maintain minimum highway speed limits, UTVs should be strictly limited to municipalities and roads posted for speeds of less than 40 miles per hour.
Currently, Arizona, Utah and Montana allow citizens to operate four-wheeled ATVs on public roads.
“This issue was originally brought to me by a constituent who wanted to check his lands, but the only way to do that was to drive down a county road,” said Dorman. “With gas prices reaching such high levels, we also have to consider these vehicles get great gas mileage and will be used more frequently in rural areas. They are already the size of a small car, so why not allow them on roads with speed limits under 40 miles per hour?”
The interim study heard testimony from the Oklahoma Tax Commission, the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety and constituents from Dorman’s legislative district. Shane Fitzwater, a resident of Ninnekah, presented statistics from the state of Montana showing accident rates were reflective of negligence by drivers and not the size or model of the vehicle. Insurance agents were also present and stated that insurance costs would be determined based upon accident rates set through studies.
Currently, the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety does not designate differences on the size of these vehicles, but policy changes will soon be made to designate different types of models and accident rates with each.
In addition, Dorman noted that “mini-trucks” will officially be street legal on November 1. The Legislature earlier this year passed a law that allows Oklahomans to operate the popular diminutive trucks on county and state roads. Popular models include the Daihatsu Hijet, Honda Acty, Mazda Scrum, Mitsubishi Minicab and Subaru Sambar.
Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives
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