The new law dealing with use of ATVs on state highways is highly controversial.

"They shouldn't be out there," said Gov. Bob Wise. "I understand the need to compromise. But (ATV manufacturers) make it pretty clear these machines should not be used on roads they're not designed for. What this legislation does is to permit what the manufacturer says is not a good idea."

Many West Virginia ATV riders have taken them to the highways over the years.

Opponents to the bill say the new law makes it official to ride the ATVs on public roads.

It appears to legalize riding double, except under certain conditions - which ATV manufactuers say is a safety hazard.

Property rights organizations expressed concern over language that says law enforcement can come on private property without a search warrant if they suspect the ATV law is being violated.

Officials said the law has several loopholes which will make it difficult to enforce in certain situations.

Liability issues connected to highway use is unclear, related to whether the ATVs should be insured.

Gov. Wise conceded "This legislation is an important first step to protecting our youth."

They can apparently be ridden on any road, anywhere in the state for up to 10 miles at 25 mph, provided they hug the berm.

The law then allows riders on about 25,000 miles of back-roads that do not have a centerline.

The bill does require all child passengers to pass a safety course administered by the Division of Motor Vehicles, and prohibits anyone under 16 from having child passengers.

It requires riders under 18 to wear a helmet on both public and private lands.

The law takes effect in May.