PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — All-terrain and utility vehicle riders who are unsure whether they are navigating an approved route in Platteville soon will have one less matter to worry about.
In the coming weeks, nearly all roads will open to the vehicles.
A divided Platteville Common Council authorized the change this week in a 4-2 vote, with Jason Artz and Ken Kilian voting against the measure. One council seat is currently vacant.
“I believe this is a good change if it is properly done,” Council Member Isaac Shanley said.
All public streets will open to ATV and UTV traffic, except a handful located south of U.S. Business 151 in subdivisions and the Platteville Industrial Park, along with Second Street between Pine and Furnace streets.
The change will not take effect until the ordinance is published in the local newspaper and street signs posted, which officials estimate could take up to one month.
The routes will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. year-round. ATV and UTV operators must possess a valid driver’s license and liability insurance, and the vehicles must have working headlights, brake lights and taillights.
The city also prohibits open intoxicants and restricts on-street parking.
Council members acknowledged that residents are split over the issue, with critics arguing that the vehicles are dangerous for use on pavement, as noted by ATV manufacturers, and excessively noisy.
“We have vehicles here already in violation of state statute regarding noise and exhaust systems,” said resident Lana Caywood. “I just feel like if we do not have law enforcement resources to deal with those who are already are breaking laws … do we need more noise in town?”
Proponents said the city should embrace change by accommodating the increasingly popular vehicles. They said few incidents have occurred since the council opened streets to vehicles in late 2018.
Platteville police have recorded about 40 incidents through November 2020, most of which concerned motorists traveling off route.
“In general, this thing has been tested and proven successful,” said resident Jim Schneller.
Although Platteville’s ordinance would penalize drivers younger than 16 for operating the vehicles on roadways, council members expressed concern that Wisconsin statute enables drivers as young as 12 to do so under some circumstances.
The council included that recommendation in a separate resolution drafted for Wisconsin lawmakers.
The council also asked the state Legislature to work with ATV and UTV manufacturers to determine steps needed to authorize the vehicles for paved and gravel road use, add to the state’s safety training program a module concerning road operations and evaluate the health effects of the vehicle’s sound emissions.
The council urged legislators to regulate ATVs and UTVs using the same standards that apply to cars and motorcycles.
ATVs and UTVs fall under the jurisdiction of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, so operators who break street laws will not see a penalty against their driver’s license.