By Janelle MacDonald
JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (WAVE) -- It's illegal for all terrain vehicles to be driven on public roads in Indiana, but that will change in Clark County on June 15th, when a new law allowing to ATVs to share county roads with other vehicles takes effect. WAVE 3 Investigator Janelle MacDonald investigates the impact this will have on both types of drivers.
County officials told us the bottom line is that ATVs are already using public law, even though it's illegal. More and more people, especially in rural areas, are hitting the roads on ATVs to run errands, work the fields or meet up with friends.
Will legalizing it increase the danger, or, as some hope, make it safer?
In rural Clark County, ATVs are just a way of life for some people.
Clark County Sheriff Danny Rodden says there are, "a lot of farmers who like to be able to go from one field to another field on a county road."
So as a nod to the county's rural population, starting Friday, Clark County will allow ATVs to join cars and other vehicles on most county roads.
"We're trying to open it up a little bit, but also control it a little bit," Rodden said.
So while you won't see ATVs on public in Jeffersonville and Clarksville, the road now will be shared by the ATVs in the rest of the county's 11 townships.
We asked Rodden about public safety concerns, especially in light of accidents like one in Owen County, Kentucky that killed a 6-year-old girl who was riding a 4-wheeler with her mother on a public roadway.
"Well you know, we've got it already," Rodden said. "We've got them out there already -- kids especially -- doing stupid things on county roads, and we are trying to control it. We have lots of concerns. I have lots of safety concerns."
For example, Rodden says he'd like to require helmets, but state law doesn't allow that for adults.
Sam Speth, who sells ATVs for S&S Marine, tells me he recommends head gear to everyone. "It is always an excellent idea to wear your helmet, especially when you're on the road. There's a lot less give when you're on asphalt than when you're on grass."
Rodden says the new law has a lot of positives. For example, law enforcement can more carefully track who's riding ATVs and they can link registered vehicles to the rightful owner if they are stolen.
Plus, he has a warning for anyone who thinks the new law is an opportunity to push that envelope even further: "We're going to try to enforce this pretty strictly because we're going to send a message that we want this to be people who are using sense and be safe."
Rodden points out this is just a pilot program. He says if significant problems pop up because of the new ordinance, it can easily be wiped off the books.
For that reason, he told us he's working to waive this year's $25 fee for a vehicle permit.
That way, he says, people won't have to pay it only to have to worry about losing that money if the law is revoked.
The law specifies only licensed drivers who have vehicles registered both with the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles and the Clark County Sheriff's office can use the county roads.
Drivers still can't use ATVs on state roads, although the new ordinance does allow them to cross state roads when using a county road.
Online Reporter: Janelle MacDonald