President's Column

The article appearing below was written by PDAC Executive Director Jerry Abboud for the Colorado Off-highway Vehicle Coalition of which he is President.  It is of equal significance to our dealer body.

Updates on this legislation if it is introduced by the counties as planned, will be forthcoming.

December 1, 2014

President’s View
The Time has Come

A few months back, I wrote an article I distributed to as many OHV clubs as I could.  That article was titled Perhaps the Time has Come, referring to our participation in developing a uniform state law to address OHV use on streets and roads due to the confusion among counties and conflicts between state law and local ordinances that left OHV enthusiasts confused and subject to being ticketed even though the county ordinances were not legally applicable.  Now, with the return of our COHVCO Newsletter, I can more thoroughly address the subject of Colorado Counties Inc. (CCI) introducing comprehensive OHV legislation this Colorado legislative session.  

Face it, there is so much chaos swirling around OHV use on public streets, roads and highways, not just here but in many, many states, it is no surprise that local government wants hard and fast ground rules for use on public streets and roads.  While we have a first draft of the legislation and an invitation from CCI to comment, we do not control what the bill will contain at introduction.  That is why COHVCO, as always, must stay on top of bill as it moves through the process.

On one side we have Colorado Counties, the State Patrol and Colorado Sheriffs wanting to regulate use on public streets and roads.  We have pressure at the national political level to create a federal license plate for OHVs driven by a well funded well connected group of environmental organizations.  This is also true at the state level.  We do not want a Washington D.C mandate on these issues.  Rather we need to be leading from the front and work with the legislation with a particular eye out to protect the OHV program and keep the cost of compliance as inexpensive as possible.  For example costs for insurance, registration, plate and vehicle equipment required to be legal for operation on county roads should not in any way reflect the costs the state sets for putting a motor vehicle on the road.

The drat bill is 35 pages long, much to long to explain every nuance except to say that we need to push some major changes as local government has little experience in this area.  The draft reflects that belief.  (Remember these are only requirements to ride on roads under local control; they do not apply to trails or other rights-of way).

The major requirements to operate an OHV on the public streets and roads under local control include:

•    A motor vehicle driver’s license
•    Proof of Financial Responsibility per Colorado’s current auto insurance requirements
•    Obeying Colorado’s Traffic Code; rules of the road were applicable. (this means you stop at stop signs but you don’t put seatbelts on ATVs)
•    Follow current motorcycle headgear and eye protection requirements; helmets for riders and passengers under 18 and eye protection for those 18 and older
•    A one time purchase of a title, motor vehicle type registration and a motorcycle sized plate with no property taxes this is as stated a one time purchase until transferred or sold

This is by no means exhaustive but is the heart of the regulatory effort by CCI.

This lack of uniformity across counties and conflict between state and local law has been festering for over half a decade and as I mentioned previously it is no surprise to find CCI on the march.  Frankly, these requirements are rather common even in states that do not open all roads to OHV use.  For example, law enforcement is rightly upset that with a couple of exceptions the rules of the road do not apply to OHVs.  Idiots breaking traffic laws for which they cannot be cited may sound like a loophole and it is, but it kills our image.

Also, without a small license plate, forget the enviros this is not about them, a LEO (law enforcement officer) cannot check for warrants and certainly will feel more comfortable checking the plate from the safety of his vehicle. 

Going up to any un-plated vehicle in no man’s land (county sheriffs mainly) is dangerous. LEOs prefer to check out the vehicle and rider first.  The OHV sticker does not work, only the Department of Revenue computer data base allows a check and that requires a title and a small plate.  Also, being in the data base allows stolen OHV’s to be recovered and returned to the rightful owner.

Last of all, while there is no guarantee, conversations with commissioners looking for tourism dollars leads me to believe we will see more not less roads and streets open because of the uniform standards being in place across the state.   More local jurisdictions are allowing OHVs on county roads and city streets.  The economic benefit to local business and government by providing greater access for OHV recreationists is being realized around the state.

Many of you have a perfect right to oppose this proposal and government sticking its nose in your business.  However, this is clearly the concept most all western states have on the books or will be working on in the near future.  Our organization may or may not be able to defeat the combined push of local government and law enforcement.  So it is critical that COHVCO is in the middle of the CCI proposal and must do its best to shape the best bill we can.  The alternative is being force fed terrible legislation that most cannot or will not comply with to our great disadvantage.

You all get it by now, the tsunami is coming and I very much recommend we work with the counties and fight for one bill that is streamlined and resolves the current conflicts in the law in the least costly fashion.
Go to the COHVCO website for future updates and the strong possibility we may need you to contact your state legislators.