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09-28-04 Council reconsiders law concerning ATVs being allowed on city streets

By Timothy Cox

  ST. MARYS -- For the first time in 25 years, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and snowmobiles could be banned from city streets.

  City officials on Monday discussed but took no action on an ordinance that would close the loophole and make the city's traffic laws more uniform with state law and other area towns. Several city officials said there have been sporadic problems involving off-road vehicles and want the legalized practice to end.
  Council member Robin Willoughby said there have been problems in her Beech Street neighborhood. When police do try to intervene, the off-road drivers usually flee, she said.
  "Some days are worse than other days," she said, chalking the problems up to "a few bad apples."
  "Perhaps there is some thinking that this provision has outlived its usefulness," especially with the proliferation of ATVs and snowmobiles people own, Law Director Kraig Noble said.  The legal exception that allows ATVs and snowmobiles to operate on city streets was born in 1979, the year following the great blizzard of 1978. During that historic snowstorm, snowmobiles and four-wheel drive vehicles were virtually the only way anyone could travel. City officials apparently took that to heart when they legalized the vehicles the following year.
  "Evidently, we're more the exception than the rule," Safety-Service Director Mike Weadock said.
  Council assigned the issue to its traffic committee for further discussion.
  Even with a local law banning ATVs and snowmobiles, local police would still have to catch violators to give them a traffic ticket. That is not always easy said Cridersville Police Chief John Drake, who is running for sheriff and dropped in at the council meeting to make his campaign pitch.
  "They don't stop," Drake said of off-roading scofflaws. "We can't go across the fields through the snow, but they can."
  Drake said police sometimes get lucky and catch law-breaking ATV and snowmobile drivers filling their tanks with gas at a local service station.


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