Back in April 2020, per the request of Village President Diana Kaschinske, the Poynette Village Board discussed whether or not to allow ATVs, UTVs and golf carts to drive on village roadways. The topic was back for discussion at its Sept. 27 Committee of the Whole meeting.
Joining the discussion was DNR Conservation Warden for Columbia County Paul Nadolski, who has heeded warnings toward different municipalities of everything it entails. He spoke just about ATVs and UTVs because that’s what currently falls under DNR regulations — he could not speak about golf carts on roadways. He said that there is a growing trend of municipalities allowing such vehicles within their jurisdictions.
Nadolski said a critical piece of information is that when municipalities make ATV/UTVs legal on its roadways, it relieves the state of any liability regarding future accidents. He added that the village checks with its legal counsel before moving forward.
Nadolski said that manufacturers of ATVs and UTVs are putting areas in the operating manuals that state the vehicles are not meant for pavement. He said the reason for doing so was because so many companies were getting sued when crashes did happen on pavement.
When the board talked about the issue in 2020, a majority was not in favor unless all village residents would be able to have access to the certain allowable roadways. It now seems that every residential property within the village would be able to have access.
Because one state highway travels through the village, there are further restrictions. ATV/UTVs are allowed on state highways where speeds are 25 mph or less. The vehicles can also cross a state highway where speeds are 35 mph or less.
Nadolski said that there has always been two exceptions for ATV/UTVs allowed on roadways, regardless of municipality ordinance. He said farmers can use them because the vehicle is a tool for them, and people can use it for plowing snow — both instances need flashing amber lights on the vehicle.
There have been 33 crashes of ATVs throughout the state this year, Nadolski said. Of those, 24 occurred on paved roadways and 10 involved alcohol, with another 10 pending testing.
The biggest disappointment that Nadolski has seen comes at the state level, as no two municipality’s ordinances are written the exact same. That causes a lot of confusion, Nadolski said, especially when crossing municipality borders because county and state officials can’t enforce village or town rules.
“All I can enforce is state rules,” Nadolski said, adding that the DNR can enforce rules on ATVs and UTVs, but not golf carts.
Another big problem that Nadolski has seen is that when municipalities allow ATVs on the roads, the signs are never posted in the exact place that Nadolski says they need to be.
More research by the village will be done on the topic, but Kaschinske wanted to gauge where the rest of the board stood. Terri Fiore was in favor of allowing ATV/UTVs on village roads, but not golf carts. Joni DeYoung said she was not currently in favor, but wants more investigation of the subject. Steve Mueller and Judainne Stronach were in favor of allowing all three. Jerry Burke is only in favor of ATV/UTVs on roads if it’s 100% certain all residents have access to the the potential roadways — and he is in favor of golf carts. Kaschinske is “100%” for golf carts, and said she would like to eventually get all three approved, knowing the process “has to start somewhere.”
More information will be provided at future Village Board/COW meetings.
Four residents spoke during the village board meeting in support of allowing ATV/UTVs on village roads. One resident said that people would enjoy being on village roads and it would be beneficial to the village because people would come from out of town to ride around.
Another resident commented on how Poynette may be on the map as one of the few who don’t allow ATV/UTVs and golf carts on roadways in the area. He also noted they have plates, so it can be policed just like a car.
One acknowledged that some people may use ATVs to go from bar to bar, but the vast majority is an older generation who simply like to go out for rides around town.
One resident said that it's tough to load her ATVs in a trailer because of not being allowed on roads, so she has to block a back alley. She added that she goes to other communities to ride because she can’t do it in Poynette, and would like to keep her money local. She also said, in order to fill up the gas tanks to her ATVs, she has to load them on a trailer and drive them two blocks to a gas station, instead of simply being able to ride the ATV directly to the station.
Ellen Pulver, who lives in Wyocena, and is the secretary/treasurer of the Columbia County ATV/UTV Enthusiasts Club, also spoke to the board. She referenced the same crashes that Nadolski did, but later stated that nobody under the age of 12 is to drive an ATV, and in many instances, you need to take tests. Other instances require a driver’s license to operate a vehicle.