ATV riders on local roads

ATV riders drive down a local road recently.

PRINCETON — ATVs are now a common sight in southern West Virginia’s counties, but there are still instances when they are seen speeding and being a hazard on public roads even though there are laws regulating their operations when they’re off designated trails.

In West Virginia, the State Code outlines where all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) can operate. According to the code, no ATV may be operated on any interstate highway except for public safety personnel going to emergencies. This includes U.S. Route 52 in Mercer County, which is an interstate. ATVs also cannot be operated on any road or highway with a center line or more than two lanes except for crossing the road.

Department of Natural Resources Officer John Gills said law enforcement does get complaints about ATVs that are “based on misinformation.”

“Many people don’t know what all the laws are and they don’t understand them,” he said. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there about what can be and what can’t be done.”

ATVs and vehicles called side-by-sides are allowed on most roadways in the southern part of West Virginia, Gills said.

“They’re allowed pretty much on any roadways in the southern part of the state except for interstates,” he stated. 

There are times when people have to contend regularly with ATVs and dirt bikes being driven irresponsibly through their communities. In one example, residents of the Kirkwood Avenue area in Princeton have had problems with speeding four-wheelers.

“Where we live, it’s mostly elderly people,” resident Joyce Linkous said.

Young people riding ATVs and other small vehicles have been speeding around the community. Linkous said all the activity is frustrating for elderly people, and there are fears that the riders could get hurt.

“We’re just afraid somebody is going to back out of their driveway and hurt them,” she said, adding that law enforcement agencies have not been contacted about the problem.

Like other motorists, ATV and motorcycle riders must adhere to regulations listed in the West Virginia State Code.

The ATV riders must be going to and from lodging, restaurants, stores and the Hatfield-McCoy Trail. They cannot travel more than 10 miles on roadways, cannot exceed 25 mph, and must stay to the right of the roadway, according to State Code. When traffic comes up behind ATVs, riders must pull off at the first safe opportunity and make way. Riders are required to wear helmets and other safety equipment regardless of their experience or the type of ATV they are driving.

Gills said both local and out-of-state riders tend to obey the law.

“Now and then, you get individuals who try to take it too far,” he stated.

In McDowell County, the McDowell County Sheriff’s Office and the West Virginia State Police Welch detachment are helping the state DNR with enforcing state laws regarding ATVs. Chief Deputy James “Boomer” Muncy most of the complaints his office receives about ATVs involve destruction of property and speeding. And most of the complaints involve out-of-state riders, and alcohol is often a factor.

“The DNR has been doing a great job, but we’re there to help them because they are requesting assistance. There’s a lot of trails to cover,” he said.

Mayor Louise Stoker of Bramwell said ATV riders coming to town tend to behave.

“They’re coming through here for a reason,” Stoker said. “They’re coming in and parking for a reason. They come to eat, they come to walk around and enjoy Bramwell. We’re seeing that they’re orderly when they come through here on the whole, because they’re here for a vacation and they want to enjoy it and enjoy their visit to Bramwell.”

— Contact Greg Jordan at

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