OLYMPIA - Drivers of all-terrain vehicles now have more access to the state's rural roads, thanks to a bill that went into effect Sunday.
But don't expect any changes soon in Grant County.
House Bill 1632 also requires off-road vehicles to have a license plate similar to motorcycles, replacing the ORV registration decal previously required for off-road use.
Starting yesterday, ATV riders were given immediate access to 35 mph-or-less rural roads in seven counties with fewer than 15,000 residents, including nearby Lincoln County. The law allows higher populated counties and cities the ability to allow greater access to roads.
The legislation also creates a new class of recreation vehicles: "wheeled all-terrain vehicles."
It could be some time before ATV riders in Grant County can expect more access to roads. Grant County Sheriff Tom Jones said the new law hasn't been discussed much within the sheriff's office and county officials but expects it will come up in the near future. Jones added he wants to research data in other counties that have allowed greater road access. He would review rates of non-compliance with the rules of the road and collision rates.
Dan Morrison, former owner of Mountain View Polaris in Moses Lake, said quite a few people visited the store asking questions about the new law. He sees the law as not only great for his business but great for the county and smaller towns. His son Brad now runs the store.
The bill allows cities with less than 3,000 people, by ordinance, to designate sections of street or highway for ATV use. Morrison said the bill could benefit the City of Soap Lake, which is considering developing an off-road vehicle park. Giving riders the opportunity to ride into town to buy fuel or stop by businesses would be a perfect fit for the town, he said.
The law does allow rural communities to designate roads for ATVs that meet safety standards including requiring brake lights and headlights, mirrors and turn signals.
Morrison is also in favor of the new license plate requirement that adds additional accountability for riders, especially the few who decide to not follow current ORV laws. All ATV's, whether riders plan to ride on roads or not, are now required to display the license plate.
The license fee for on-road use is set at $12 and $18 for off-road use. In addition, the metal license plates must be replaces every seven years at the cost of $2.
Jones said he supports the requirement for the new license plate, which will help identify those riders who choose to ride off-road illegally.
Morrison said it will likely be some time before any changes are made for roads in Grant County, but the law is a start for the state to catch up to other states, including Idaho, Montana and Oregon, that already have similar laws in place.
Morrison is required to begin installing the license plates on the store's vehicles by Sunday, but said the local Department of Licensing office does not have the plates yet.