Act 272 of 2017 has garnered a lot of attention recently. In general, state law has always prohibited the operation of ATV’s on public streets and highways. However, there are some exceptions to this general rule- Ark. Code Ann. 27-21-106 and Ark. Code Ann. 27-21-109 permit the use of an ATV on a public street or highway in five circumstances: (1) For farming or hunting operations; (2) Crossing a public street or highway; (3) As a means of transportation if a person has a serious walking disability or has lost one or both legs above the ankle (several restrictions apply); (4) If the operator is an emergency or utility personnel engaged in official business; and (5) To get from an off-road trail to another off-road trail or from the operator’s private property to an off- road trail or other tract of private property (3 mile limitataion).
Many rural legislators, myself included have been contacted by constituents who have expressed their uneasiness with this legislation. After the implementation of the new provisions in the law, we’ve heard and listened to the overwhelming amount of concerns. We understand there is an immediate need for answers. Please know that we are currently devoting attention and resources to addressing these needs for the benefit of our constituents. There is proposed legislation that is currently being drafted that will have a positive impact on the daily lives of Arkansans dealing with the current challenges faced herein.
Act 272 did not affect any of the exceptions listed under Ark. Code Ann. 27-21-106. The Act changed an operator’s ability to operate an ATV on a public street or highway for the purpose of going to an off-road trail or tract of private property only. Prior to the Act, an operator was allowed to operate an ATV upon a public street or highway if the operator could show by a preponderance of the evidence that traveling on the public street or highway was the most reasonable route of access available from one off-road trail to another or from his or her private property to an off-road trail.
Act 272 still requires an operator to show that traveling on a public street or highway was the most reasonable route of access, but adds a three (3) mile restriction to the operation of an ATV on a public street or highway for the purpose of going to an off-road trail from his or her private property. The operator of an ATV may also drive his or her ATV to an off-road trail and use a public street or highway for the purpose of going to another off-road trial from the off-road trail where he or she parked the motor vehicle used to transport the ATV, so long as it is the most reasonable route of access available and does not exceed three miles.
Additionally, Act 272 creates a new circumstance in which the operator of an ATV may travel on a public street or highway. The operator of an ATV may travel on a public street or highway for the purpose of going from his or her private property to another tract of private property so long as it is the most reasonable route of access available and does not exceed three (3) miles. For this new situation, “his or her private property” is defined as real property that an operator of an ATV own, leases, resides at with the owner or lease, or is staying at for a specific period of time as an invitee (vacation resort, rental cabin, timeshare, etc.).
Finally, in order to be able to enforce this law, an operator is required to carry proof when operating an ATV on a public street or highway of his or her property interest in “his or her private property” (deed, resort reservation, etc.) and the location of “his or her private property.”
As you can see, Act 272 and Ark. Code Ann. 27-21-109 regulate the operation of ATVs on public streets and highways, and have nothing to do with the regulation of ATVs on off-road trails. If an off-road trail is designated for ATV use by the county, state park, etc., then an ATV may operate on it and Ark. Code Ann. 27-21-109 may be applied if the operator is stopped for operating his or her ATV on a public street or highway.
The same would apply to off-road trails on federal land. Off-road trails on federal land are designated for ATV use under the Travel Management Rule. Thus, if the National Park has designated an off-road trail for ATV use, it may be used as such without a problem. Once again, Ark. Code Ann. 27-21-109 may apply if the operator of an ATV uses a public street or highway to travel to the federal off-road trail from his or her private property or from one federal off-road trail to another.
Thank you for voicing your concerns regarding this legislation and I can personally assure you we are trying to find a solution to the issue as quickly as possible.