Dubuque County officials are weighing which safety equipment requirements to include in an ordinance allowing recreational all-terrain and utility vehicles on county roadways.
County committee members on Monday tasked a consultant with East Central Intergovernmental Association with helping research what other counties require for equipment such as helmets, blinkers and seat belts.
Committee member Nate Johnson, a conservation warden for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, cautioned the committee to be aware of what state code allows and prohibits so that the local ordinance aligns.
“What you guys have to be careful of is putting something in your ordinance that is more liberal than what state code states,” he said. “You can be more restrictive (than the state code), but you can’t be more liberal.”
County supervisors in April voted to create an ordinance that would allow recreational ATV and UTV riding on some county roads. Right now, the only allowed use is for agricultural work. The committee was tasked with drafting an ordinance for the supervisors to consider.
Johnson said state code already includes some equipment requirements, including having working headlights and taillights for riding before dawn or after sunset. State law also requires such vehicles to have mufflers.
Supervisor Chairman Dave Baker said he knows of some owners that have swapped the off-road tires for highway ones so that they wear better.
Johnson said the state code defines those vehicles as having off-highway tires, so adding the highway-style ones puts them out of that definition. He has pulled over drivers in other areas related to that issue.
He also said state code is a little less clear about seat belt requirements, and he suggested having County Attorney C.J. May III examine the issue.
Supervisor Dave Baker said he is on the fence about whether to require blinkers on ATVs and UTVs, but he would like to require rearview mirrors.
“If they’re turning left, the’re going to be able to see if a car is trying to pass them (with mirrors),” he said.
Helmets and slow-moving-vehicle flags also were discussed. They were among the topics the committee asked ECIA to research.
Supervisor Ann McDonough said that, aside from what state code allows, committee members should be mindful of what neighboring counties with ordinances require, since riders will go back and forth between jurisdictions.
“If there’s something that we’re requiring that another county isn’t, how do you cross that (as a rider)?” she asked.
Ron McCarthy, a member of North East Iowa Action Trail Riders Club, said he does not think it would be a problem to require riders to use their lights at all times of the day. Many people he rides with do that already for added visibility.
Dale Leslein, of the Dubuque County ATV/UTV Alliance, said he believed using reflective stickers or tape also would help with visibility.
The committee is scheduled to meet again on June 24.