Off Limits

Eight roadways under the jurisdiction of Union County are off limits to ATVs under Ordinance 2019-01. The roadways were made off limits by the Union County Board of Commissioner’s in most cases because of their heavy traffic loads. The Union County Board of Commissioners will re-evualute this list and other elements of Ordinance 2109-01 annually, said Commissioner Donna Beverage.

Following are the roadways on which ATVs are not allowed:

• Hunter Road

• McAlister Road

• Gekeler Lane from the intersection of Pierce Road to McAlister Road

• Buchanan Lane

• Palmer Junction Road

• Bowman Road

• Moses Creek Road

• Morgan Lake Road from Glass Hill Road to Morgan Lake

— Dick Mason,

The Observer

The Union County Sheriff’s Office is launching an information campaign about a new Union County ordinance undoubtedly creating a buzz in the ATV world — and creating a lot of questions.

It is ordinance 2019-01, which the Union County Board of Commissioners adopted Aug. 7. The ordinance went effect that same day, allowing ATVs to be driven on most roads under the jurisdiction of Union County.

“I feel there is a need for an information campaign,” said Capt. Craig Ward of the Union County Sheriff’s Office. “People have many questions.”

Ward will be providing answers on the Union County Sheriff’s Office’s website, speaking to media outlets and more.

He said it is important for people to understand that some of the standards for riding on Union County roadways are different than those for riding on off-road sites like the trails at the Mount Emily Recreational Area.

For example, under the ordinance, everyone age 18 and older operating or riding as a passenger on a Class I or Class III ATV on Union County roadways must wear a motorcycle helmet with a fastened chin strap. This is different than the Oregon law for off-road ATV use, which states that people age 18 or older are not required to wear a helmet.

The new Union County ordinance requires everyone younger than 18 to wear a motorcycle helmet on a county road. The state rule for off-road use also requires those younger than 18 to wear a helmet unless they are in a vehicle with a roof or a roll bar.

People operating ATVs on county roads must ride in compliance with posted speed limits, Ward said. He emphasized that this does not mean ATV operators should drive at the posted speed limit, which can be up to 55 miles per hour on paved roads, since many ATVs are not designed to safely travel this fast.

While the Union County Sheriff’s Office is not taking a stand for or against the new ATV ordinance, Ward stressed that riding ATVs on roads is quite dangerous. He said the machines are not designed to be driven on roadways. Ward explained that their soft tires do not provide good traction on pavement and that the high center of gravity and narrow wheelbases of ATVs can create instability on pavement. He said ATV manufacturers are very aware of this.

“The ATV industry is against the use of ATVs on paved roads or in mixed traffic,” Ward said, pointing out that the majority of ATV-related fatal accidents occur on roadways.

Another concern of Ward’s is that slower moving ATVs will be on the road with faster moving cars and trucks, creating a dangerous “closing spread.” For example, if an ATV is traveling 25 miles per hour and cars behind it are traveling 55 miles per hour, the drivers of the cars can easily find themselves dangerously close to the ATV, and to the other cars, in little time.

ATV riders can protect themselves from closing spread problems by taking steps like mounting flags on their machines. However, visibility is not always the answer, Ward said. For proof look no further than agricultural vehicles.

“Cars sometimes crash into slow-moving agricultural vehicles the size of small houses,” Ward said.

Despite the potential dangers, Ward foresees the new ordinance working out for the best.

“I have every confidence the we (cars, trucks and ATVs) can accommodate each other,” Ward said.

The full text of Ordinance 2019-01 is available at