Bluefield Daily Telegraph
You see them every weekend. They are out-of-town visitors by the dozens who are hauling their ATVs into the region in order to ride the Hatfield-McCoy Trails in Mercer and McDowell counties.
This is a major positive for our region. These law-abiding tourists are here to have fun along the professionally designed and regulated 600-mile Hatfield-McCoy Trail system. These visitors also are spending money on food, fuel, lodging and other necessities. They visit our local malls, department stores and shops. Simply put, they are a welcomed boon to the region’s still growing tourism industry.
Then you have the so-called outlaw riders — mostly local residents, and often children — who are riding ATVs on primary roadways, in many cases without a helmet. What kind of message are we sending to our out-of-town visitors with this kind of behavior?
Unfortunately, it is not unusual to see both adults and children driving ATVs on main roads across our region without helmets or valid licenses. Many times they are speeding and driving in a reckless manner. All too frequently this occurs on heavily-traveled thoroughfares, such U.S. Route 52 in both Mercer and McDowell counties.
The sight of a 7- or 8-year-old child speeding down a road on an ATV will obviously draw a lot of attention, as correctly noted by Sgt. M.S. Haynes, assistant detachment commander with the West Virginia State Police Princeton detachment.
According to Haynes, complaints about improper ATV usage are widespread across Mercer County, and particularly in residential neighborhoods. He says the majority of the complaints involve local residents — not those out-of-town visitors who are lawfully enjoying off-road recreation along the six-county Hatfield-McCoy Trail system.
Troopers say many of the local ATV riders claim they are unaware of ATV laws.
“We see a lot of ATVs on roads where they shouldn’t be,” Cpl. C.K. Morton with the West Virginia State Police Welch Detachment, adds. “Locals are the ones who do most of the driving where they shouldn’t. They use them (ATVs) to go get their mail or to go to the grocery store. They don’t realize the law allowing ATVs to operate on certain roads was intended to allow people to access gas stations or trailheads, not for people to drive ATVs on the road so they can run errands.”
We would suggest that all ATV riders research the law before deciding to take their four-wheelers for a spin on U.S. Route 52 or any other main road for that matter.
All ATV drivers must have a valid license. If you are illegally operating an ATV, your driver’s license can be suspended. You can also be cited or ticketed for ATV infractions. The maximum speed limit for ATVs on most West Virginia roads — excluding, of course, the Hafield-McCoy Trail system — is 25 mph. And ATVs can only travel on paved roads that are unlined. Some towns, including Bramwell, also have designated routes for ATVs.
Let’s obey the rules of the road and set a good example for those out-of-town visitors who are traveling to our region to enjoy the Hatfield-McCoy Trails. And we would encourage more local residents — including those riders who make a habit of riding on main roads — to purchase a permit and ride the Hatfield-McCoy Trail system as well.
Area ATV riders should help support this great regional attraction while also enjoying safe and professionally regulated and designed off-road courses located in our own backyard.