Police: Public overestimates OHV noncompliance

Edge: ‘They’re loud,’ but police can’t do anything about that

Moab Police Chief Bret Edge addresses the Moab City Council with a department update on Tuesday, Nov. 12. Photo by Doug McMurdo

A recent traffic study of off-highway vehicles by Moab City Police has, at least in its initial phase, yielded results that the “vast majority” of OHVs, according to Police Chief Bret Edge, are in compliance with state regulations that define what make a side-by-side and similar vehicles street legal.

Edge initiated the study after complaints to his office from locals that there is rampant noncompliance among OHV owners and users in Moab when it comes to registering their vehicles and complying with equipment requirements set forth by Utah lawmakers.

Edge has found, however, that only 9 percent of the OHVs his officers have seen driving on Moab’s streets so far this winter have lacked proper registration.

“It’s not really anything greater than you would see with regular vehicles on the road, it’s just not as much of an issue as I think it’s perceived,” Edge said in a report to the Moab City Council Tuesday night, Nov. 12.

Edge noted that, although Utah issues license plates to owners of OHVs who register their vehicle with the state so that they can legally drive it on public roads, not all states issue license plates to OHV owners. Some instead issue stickers to denote that the vehicle is registered.

“The State of Utah doesn’t require you to have a plate; it (the vehicle) just has to be registered street-legal in your home state, so if your home state issues a sticker, you’re legal,” Edge said.

Edge also said that the study’s findings are preliminary and “not sufficient” to know empirically whether OHV registration is truly the issue some residents, in his estimation, make it out to be. He said that 166 OHVs have been observed so far and that the observations would continue next spring.

What about equipment requirements?

A side-by-side sits in a public parking space on Center Street. Photo by Carter Pape

During Edge’s report to the city council, Council Member Kalen Jones brought up the state’s equipment requirements regulating vehicles that can drive on public roads. He asked whether Edge was also checking on compliance with those rules during the study.

“From the roadside, with them driving by, there’s really no way to do that,” Edge said, referring to checks that side-by-sides are in compliance with equipment requirements.

For OHVs to be street legal in Utah, they must have tires that comply with Department of Transportation rules and functioning turn signals. Additionally, drivers must either be wearing eye protection or a have a windshield on the vehicle, but either one is necessary.

Edge said that the turn signals on some OHVs are built into the vehicle’s brake lights, or they are too small to spot unless activated. Vehicle tires are also difficult to check without close inspection.

“When they were first made street legal, we spent probably two years hammering the users – literally hammering them – and at that time, it was definitely a significant issue,” Edge said.

Edge continued by saying he believed that “education has gotten out” and that “the public has learned” that Moab “is not the Wild, Wild West.” He added that the department was “not seeing as many of them operating illegally” as it used to, compared to when they were first made street legal.

“They’re loud,” Edge said. “The tires are loud. The mufflers are loud. There isn’t a whole lot that we can do about that, but from the perspective of operating legally, I think the vast majority of them are.”

What about the highway?

Council Member Karen Guzman-Newton asked Edge about OHV compliance with state laws governing how fast the vehicles can drive and what that meant about them driving on highways 191 and 313.

Edge said that the speed limit for OHVs on public roads is 50 mph and that they must operate on the right side of the road. Otherwise, he said, and as long as they are in compliance with registration and equipment requirements, they are allowed on Highway 191 and Highway 313. It is, he said, legal for them to use the highways.