(01/11/2007)
Editorial: For Pity's Sake, No Paved Roads
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Members of the Legislature spend much time tut-tutting about West Virginia's death toll from all-terrain vehicles, and just as much thinking of ways not to reduce it.

Why?

West Virginia has an estimated 450,000 all-terrain vehicles. Nobody knows for sure, though, because the state doesn't require them to be registered with the Division of Motor Vehicles.

That's problem No. 1.

The State Police have long asked legislators to give them some way to establish ownership at a distance. Troopers currently have a tough time enforcing the law because violators can simply disappear into the woods to escape accountability.

An early draft of legislation this session would have required people to register ATVs every three years and pay a $30 fee each time. The subcommittee came out with a version that requires registration for a one-time fee of $10.

Non-residents would have to pay $10 for a yearly permit to ride their ATVs in West Virginia.

What the state needs is a registration list that gives law enforcement officers current information, and a fee structure that covers the cost of record- keeping.

Long-acknowledged problem No. 2 is that even the makers of all-terrain vehicles say they are not designed for and do not belong on paved roads.

Yet West Virginia has continued to pussyfoot around the issue.

Current state law allows ATVs only on paved roads without center lines.

A subcommittee proposal would ban ATVs on all paved roads throughout West Virginia, a nod toward common sense and ease of enforcement.

But some lawmakers support a provision that would allow all 55 county commissions to write their own regulations -- including allowing ATV on paved roads.

Aw, come on. ATVs don't belong on paved roads.

What would be the point of passing a state law that bans a dangerous practice - and allows county commissions to confound law enforcement by writing 55 contrary sets of regulations?

West Virginia needs a policy that applies statewide.

Last year, 54 people in the state died in ATV-related accidents. Twenty-eight of those fatalities occurred on paved roads.

Legislators are making this harder than it has to be.

Yes, people like their ATVs. But no, they are not all going to putt-putt toward the Capitol bearing arms if the state passes reasonable safety regulations.

Legislators should require registration that will ease law enforcement, impose without apology enough of a fee to cover the state's costs, and ban ATVs from paved roads across the state.

That shouldn't be so tough.

Charleston Daily Mail


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