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Some vehicles don't belong on public roads
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Editor, Why can’t I taxi my airplane down Highway 84 when I want?
This letter is in response to the article written by Ms. Alena Parker titled, “Public rumbles as ATV ordinance looms.”
If you visualized a Boeing 747 taxing down Highway 84 and stopping at Shoney’s for a bit of lunch, it is indeed a delicious image. But, sorry to disappoint, I was thinking of Steve Berg’s (of Berg Park Aerodrome in Midway) single-engine, Aeronica Champ. In it we could land in Wal-Mart, then taxi over to Lowe’s for a bit of shopping, taxi down Highway 84 to Shoney’s for a spot of lunch, before taxiing back onto Highway 84 for take off (the Champ becomes airborne at 45 mph so we would not be speeding) to return to Midway?
All terrain vehicles (ATVs), off road vehicles and dirt bike operators feel they can operate on our roads and private property, with abandonment, impunity and immunity from accountability and prosecution, so, why not an airplane? Steve’s plane is registered. Off-road vehicles are not. Steve has a pilot’s license. Most dirt bike operators do not have a motorcycle endorsement on their license. The airplane tires are street legal. Off road vehicle tires are not street legal.
Yes, Mr. Sutton, I agree. There are laws that apply to the operation of off road vehicles within Georgia. However, most of them are totally ignored by the operators of those vehicles and the Liberty County Sheriff’s Department. For example, (O.C.G.A. 40-8-26) “No motor vehicle shall be operated on a public street or highway with tires that have been marked ‘not for highway use,’ ‘for racing purposes only’ or ‘unsafe for highway use.’ Check the tires, all off road vehicle tires are so stamped, and therefore illegal to operate on any public road.
You were quoted as saying, “that’s what rural areas are for. Living in a rural community, that’s why you live there and pay your taxes, to have some freedoms that are not in the incorporated areas.” Don’t you mean to say, in the rural areas you would have less chance of being stopped, cited or fined?
Let’s look at another applicable state law: (O.C.G.A. 40-6-11[A]) “For the purposes of this code section, ‘motorcycle’ means any motor vehicle traveling on public streets or highways having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider and designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground but excluding a tractor and a moped.” [b] “No owner of a motorcycle or any other person, other than a self-insurer as defined in Chapter 34 of Title 33, shall operate or authorize any other person to operate the motorcycles unless the owner has liability insurance on the motorcycle equivalent to that required as evidence of security for bodily injury and property damage liability under Code Section 40-9-37. Any person who violates this subsection shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.” Do you carry proof of insurance when you operate your dirt bike on public streets, and do you have a motorcycle endorsement on your license?
There are over 500 codes and many apply to off road vehicle operations. I know, I read them all, printed out most, and highlighted many. They are best summed up in Georgia Attorney General’s Official Opinion 2007-3. “Re: All-terrain vehicles operating on the roadways in the state of Georgia are motor vehicles and as such are governed by the uniform rules of the road as set forth in O.C.G. A. 40-6-1 through 40-6-397.” “It is thus clear that ATVs are vehicles that are covered by the provision of the uniform rules of the road.” The definition of both “vehicle” and “motor vehicle” contained in O.C.G.A. 40-1-1(Supp. 2006) are broad definitions and include “all-terrain vehicles,” which are simply a particular kind of vehicle.
Safety Mr. Sutton? Google Search: “All Terrain Vehicle Injury Statistics,” there are over 4,000 surveys. Here are a few statistics extracted from a few of those surveys, (Consumer Product Safety, Special Vehicle Institute of America [2007], National Ag Safety database and All Children’s Hospital): “Drivers injured in ATV incidents require hospitalization four times more frequently than the average for users of all other consumer products.” “90 percent of all youth ATV-related injuries involve a youth riding an adult sized ATV. (49cc to 1000cc).” “Youth under 16 years accounted for nearly half of all reported ATV injuries, and one third of deaths.” “25 percent of all hospitalizations for ATV incidents under age 19 are under 11 years of age,” “5 percent are under age 7.” “In 2005, 467 persons died from ATV-related injuries, 136,700 Americans were treated in U.S. emergency rooms. Of those injured between the age of 6 months and 19 years of age the average operator age was 11 years old.” No sir, I don’t think they are very safe at all.
Commissioner Stevens, the proposed ordinance cannot minimize nor change state law, however under O.C.G.A 40-7-5 (a)[2008], the commission is simply exercising it right under this section: “Incorporated towns and municipalities and counties shall have the authority to adapt ordinances consistent with state laws or regulations to regulate time periods and zones of use for off-road vehicles.” You can hold a public meeting but you can’t change state law.
Why did I choose to use an airplane as a comparison? First, it, like the ATVs, off road vehicles, dirt bikes and go-karts, is designed to operate in a specific environment and that environment is not our public roads. Second, before Steve can taxi out, he has to inspect every yard of the 2,300 by 200 foot runway and repair damaged caused by trespassing adults on off road vehicles who peel out, cut doughnuts and dig ruts. He also has to make a low pass over the runway before landing. Hitting one of these ruts at high speed would cause the airplane to crash. He has even found rubber marks in the hangar around his airplanes. Since it is an airport, it is a federal crime to in any way intentionally damage the plane, facilities or airstrip and carries a fine of $10,000 and 20 years in prison. Should he crash and there be loss of life, the death penalty is now on the table.
Ms. Parker, when you do a piece, do some investigative reporting and talk to those who will give you the law and the facts not just unsubstantiated and biased emotion.

Terry Doyle
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