Live out in the sticks? Feeding the dog for a neighbor a few acres over yonder? Maybe making a quick run to the country store for a quart of milk? It would be tempting to hop on your ATV to make that short run.
Alas, while many do just that, it’s technically illegal to do so in Spokane County at this time.
However, legislators in the last session – led by Rep. Matt Shea of Spokane Valley’s 4th District – passed House Bill 1632, which allows Washington’s counties with a population of over 15,000 to pass laws allowing ATVs to use public roadways that have posted speed limits of 35 mph or less.
At Tuesday’s CEO meeting, Spokane County commissioners learned that the sheriff’s office and engineer’s department are more or less indifferent to whatever direction is chosen. The commissioners have the option to keep the status quo, if they so choose.
“I’m not here to say yea or nay,” said Sgt. Don Manning of the sheriff’s traffic unit.
After the law was passed, Shea said the reason for the legislation is that Washington has “overly restrictive laws” pertaining to where ATVs can operate. Those passionate about the sport head to Oregon, Idaho and other states and spend their money there, he said.
“The solution we came up with is good for people who enjoy the sport, our economy and our environment,” Shea said.
Those using the roadways, however, must be licensed, with an annual fee of $12.
Insurance, however, is optional. Under Washington state law, ATV riders – like motorcyclists – are not required to carry liability insurance.
“It’s surprising,” Manning said. “However, many do have it.”
If the commissioners agree to allow ATVs the freedom to use county roads, they said they want to explore options that would limit the county’s liability. Also, any such law would only apply to unincorporated Spokane County. The cities of Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake, for example, would have to take up the issue separately.
“We really don’t predict a lot of gloom and doom (if passed),” Manning said. “But there would be some areas of Spokane County where it would be a lot more handy for folks.”
Vicky Dalton, county auditor, said that the state wouldn’t start issuing plates until March 2014, although licensing papers and decals would be available before then.
The commissioners will revisit the issue for further discussion at a future meeting.