A bill under consideration in the state House of Representatives (HB 1870) would expand options for riding wheeled all-terrain vehicles (WATVs) on county roads to include roads with a speed limit of 50 miles per hour if they meet certain conditions. Currently, WATVs can be used only on roads with speed limits up to 35 mph.
Currently, in counties with a population of 15,000 or more, roads for WATV use must be designated by the legislative authority. That would stay the same under the new bill.
WATVs are a special class of ATVs with additional safety features and registration requirements created by state law in 2013 to provide more opportunities for riding.
HB 1870 would also expand the category of vehicles regulated as WATVs. The bill would double the maximum allowable weight of WATVs from 2,000 to 4,000 pounds. The vehicles would no longer have to have four low-pressure tires, but the tires would have to be approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation for on-road travel. The WATVs would also have to have hydraulic brakes and a roll cage. For vehicles without a roll cage, the operator would have to wear a helmet and operate the vehicle at a maximum speed of 45 mph.
A bill in the state Senate (SB 5332) is intended primarily as a technical clarification of the equipment required for WATVs used on public roadways versus those used off-road.
For on-road use, WATVs must have safety equipment including a headlight and taillight, stop lamp, turn signals, mirrors, brakes and a horn, and a windshield. For off-road use, WATVs must have a headlight and taillight, a spark arrester, and a muffling device.
WATVs have to be inspected and registered before they can be operated on public roadways.
Okanogan County has about 530 miles open to WATVs, primarily in commissioner districts 1 and 3 (eastern and northern Okanogan County). The county commissioners haven’t completed a review of roads in the Methow Valley suitable for ATV use.
Both bills had hearings in the transportation committees of their respective chambers on Jan. 24.