The passing of an ordinance may be based on a popularity vote – all you need is a majority decision from commissioners and an ordinance is on its way to becoming a law. However, for Owen Country, a recently passed ordinance legalizing the use of all terrain vehicles or ATVs on county highways, which is scheduled to have its final hearing this December 21st , may still face its final storm as more and more local groups are showing up contesting that this proposed legislation will not do them any good.
Included in this ordinance is a provision that grants teenagers, as young as 14, the right drive ATVs within Owen County as long as an adult is present to supervise them. Reports say that this provision is what caught the attention of local groups as young drivers, specifically those who do not have licenses yet, will drive ATVs and will have very high chances of getting caught in unsafe situations and even road accidents. Local insurance providers also worry that once this ATV law has been passed, it can create a problem as it is almost difficult to track all terrain vehicles, and a new system for premiums and claims must be created to tailor fit this type of vehicle.
Often referred to as the most rural county in Indiana, Owen County is known for its 300 miles of roadways made of gravel. This is why citizens use all-terrain vehicles to get across very short distance, to and from neighbors’ and relatives’ houses. Attorney Richard Lorenz, an Indiana lawyer against this ordinance, said that not all of Owen County’s roads are made of gravel and ATVs are not designed to be used on roadways. Lorenz adds that the problem lies when citizens get the perception that they can go around the county driving ATVs, and since it is not a car, they will assume that they can get away without having a need for registration, auto insurance coverage requirement, and payment of fees.
According to Commissioner Wiley Truesdel, one of the very few commissioners who vetoed this ordinance, legalized ATV driving will bring nothing, but trouble to the county. Commissioner Truesdel recounts details that in the past, Owen County was fine without allowing use of ATVs. Truesdel adds that for many years now, the sheriff’s department has been trying very hard to regulate the use of ATVs, but have been unsuccessful in doing so – by the time a sheriff’s deputy arrives in the vicinity to look into the complaint, the violator has already left.
At this point, Owen County patiently waits for the outcome of the December 21 hearing.