A statewide collaborative consisting of ORV riders, sportsmen, environmentalists, law enforcement, rural city managers and land resource managers fought for several years to pass HB 1632 (regulating the use of off-road vehicles), which was signed into law on 7/3/2013 and became effective on 7/28/2013.
What is a WATV? HB 1632 created a new class of vehicle – a wheeled all-terrain vehicle (WATV) – and expanded the ability of WATV operators to drive on Washington state roads with speed limits under 35mph. WATVs are street-legal in Washington state, but are restricted to <35mph roads for safety reasons.
- WATVs are adult-sized all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) or utility terrain vehicles (side-by-sides) which have been modified with safety equipment and subjected to a dealer inspection certifying that the vehicle meets the equipment requirements. Further, the WATV operator must be a licensed driver, must file a release exempting the state from any/all liability and must display a metal identification tag (license plate) on the vehicle. The process actually changes the title of the vehicle, and is not done without effort or expense.
- By definition, WATVs cannot be dune buggies, go carts or youth vehicles of any type, nor are they unmodified ATVs or side-by-sides.
Where can you drive a WATV? HB 1632 gave counties and cities the authority to open roads under their jurisdiction to WATVs via ordinances that declare the roads open and under what conditions. Our thanks to the Washington ATV Association for a detailed list, here.
Most city councils have adopted a three-touch process so there is ample public involvement:
- The informal process starts with citizen requests to the Mayor, the City Council, or both.
- The formal process starts with an issue introduction, followed by a draft ordinance which receives a first reading, a second reading and a vote; the issue has to be approved by the City Council at each stage in order to move forward. Some councils schedule detailed presentations on major issues at a “committee of the whole” meeting, held just before the city council meeting.
What is the goal? Our goal is to connect existing off-road riding areas (including DNR and USFS-managed trails) through the use of public roads in order to stimulate recreation-based revenue for Washington’s rural communities and to enhance the quality of life for residents.
- It will require the development of a new culture of off-road riding:
- A culture that keeps riders on the trails and out of any water
- A culture that keeps riders from trespassing and from illegal trail building
- A culture that corrects or reports riders that do not follow these rules,
just like sportsmen don't tolerate animal poaching
What do we get in return for this new culture? Motorized access to public land.
We hope this will provide information so that you can get involved with issues that affect you and where you can ride. Keep watching for updated WATV information and attend City or County Council meetings if you can. Legislation is a messy business; those that show up tend to get what they want.