State lawmakers will consider ATV legislation

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Several laws affecting ATV owners are pending in the Mississippi Legislature with no clear indications of which, if any, will pass.

State Rep. Alex Monsour R-Vicksburg said public safety bills have not been discussed yet and could not comment on whether he favored one of them House Bill 6, which was introduced by Rep. Willie Perkins Sr. D-Greenwood. It would require registration of four-wheelers and other all-terrain vehicles.

“I’m going to have to look at the bill and decide,” Monsour said.

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There is no state registration requirement now and Perkins believes establishing one would help law enforcement recover the vehicles, which are frequently stolen.

While unsure on registration, Monsour said he favors bills with language promoting child safety and ATV training.

“I think it’s a good thing, especially in Vicksburg because we’ve had several accidents,” said Monsour. “I just hate we’re having children die on these things.”

When an ATV is stolen, the owner can provide law enforcement a serial number to enter on the computer database shared by all law enforcement agencies. Then, if a law enforcement officer checks a serial number, the record will show the ATV to be stolen. Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said the bill “would be beneficial to law enforcement to aid in the recovery of stolen vehicles. Unless the officer runs the serial number, you wouldn’t know it was stolen.”

The new system would be more akin to the state laws governing most boats. They must display current registration information and it’s easier for law enforcement to track violators because stolen boats are rarely registered. ATVs would have to display decals or small license plates.

Perkins’ bill would require all ATV owners in the state to register the vehicles with their local sheriff’s office, pay a registration fee and have the information listed on a public log. The log would aid law enforcement, too, he said.

“I have complaints from my constituents that a lot of people on ATVs are on the county roads causing disturbances and they have no way of identifying them,” said Perkins.

Pace said not having the vehicles registered has become a problem with thefts in Warren County as well as other counties in the state.

“There are just so many out there,” said Pace. “Depending on the ATV, sometimes you have to turn the vehicle upside down to find the serial number.”

He said having a registration plate or a small tag would make finding the actual owner easier for law enforcement along with quickly determining if the vehicle is stolen.

ATV owners would be required to provide personal information, purchase data and a location on where the vehicle is kept, reports showed.

Lamar County Sheriff Danny Rigel said he did not see a need for the bill.

“I’m not really in support of it,” Rigel said. He added the information might even help in theft of all-terrain vehicles.

Forrest County Sheriff Billy McGee does not believe the law will create easy access to ATV information if the vehicle is stolen. Instead, the information would be available to officials and the general public.

“Any person can come in off the street and ask if a certain person has a four-wheeler,” said McGee.

Association members would like to see legislation passed requiring riders wear protective headgear, at least for minors, Pace said.

In December, Rep. Dannie Reed R-Ackerman announced plans to introduce a bill requiring all ATV drivers to wear helmets while driving on public lands during this session. The legislation also would set a minimum age requirement and maximum number of passengers.

Monsour said he does not allow his son or daughter to ride a four-wheeler without his being with them.

“Some of the things we were brought up with, we had to shift. We had to build up speed. Now they shift automatically. You can go from 0 to 55 miles an hour on these things,” said Monsour.

Law does not require safety equipment and training classes despite recommendations of manufacturers.

Pace said members of the sheriff’s association also would like to see laws written specifically about ATVs to make them illegal to operate on roadways.

“It’s not legal to operate on the road because you can’t buy license plate or a registration for an ATV,” said Pace.

He said the state should clean up the language to be specific to ATVs.


Contact Tish Butts at