Open roads ahead for county ATV/UTV riders

In 4.5 hour session, members open most roads, reduce age limit

Taylor County ATV and UTV enthusiasts got a win from the county board on Wednesday. But it was not an absolute victory.
With a series of votes, county board members approved opening most county highways to all terrain vehicle (ATV) and utility terrain vehicle (UTV) traffic and mirroring state law regarding age limits. The votes came as a series of amendments to a resolution coming out of the highway committee to open all county roads.
Prior to Wednesday’s vote, about one-third of the county roads were open to ATV and UTV traffic. The change will open all but a small portion of county highways around the city of Medford.
From a public safety standpoint the biggest change from Monday’s meeting is the county tossing out its longtime rules limiting those operating on county highways to 16 years old and older and adopting the state law that allows children as young as 12 to operate on the county highways provided they are under the supervision of an adult or guardian.
“They are just too immature to be on the roads,” said board member Chuck Zenner, opposing lowering the age limit to 12 years old. He noted that people under 14 are not allowed to pump gas and said he did not think they were mature enough to drive when there may be trucks or other traffic.
“As normal, I disagree with you,” said board member Rollie Thums. Thums argued in favor of lowering the age limit to match state law based on the children being under supervision. “They are not out there by themselves, they are with a mentor,” he said.
According to Thums enforcement of the age limit becomes an issue with state troopers and conservation wardens only enforcing the state law rather than a more restrictive county ordinance. He said it would also create confusion for riders since most town ordinances opening the town roads were written to mirror state law with the younger age limit. “It creates too much confusion on enforcement,” Thums said.
He said when the county board first opened the roads, there were many members who had “doom and gloom” predicting accidents. “Yes, somebody is going to get hurt sooner or later,” Thums conceded, but said that has nothing to do with mirroring the state law.
Board member Lester Lewis disagreed. “This is not the first instance where the state government screwed up and made the wrong decision,” Lewis said.

see this week's issue of The Star News for the complete story

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