Laws amended for ATVs and snowmobiles

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:53

    ALBANY — Gov. George Pataki has signed two new laws restricting off-road motorized vehicles, raising fines for riding ATVs on posted farmland and setting a 55 mph speed limit for snowmobiles on public lands and trails. The law for all-terrain vehicles kicks in Nov. 1, setting graduated maximum penalties ranging from $250 and 15 days in jail for the first offense to $550 and 90 days in jail for a third offense within 18 months. It was backed by the New York Farm Bureau. Sponsors said unauthorized ATV use damages orchards, vineyards, croplands and pasture, even when posted against trespassing. "Under current law, defendants that do go to court are rarely fined the maximum of $250 and are often released with a warning," said Assemblyman William Magee, a Madison County Democrat who chairs the Assembly Agriculture Committee, in his sponsor's memo. ATV riders say that without designated places to ride ATVs, problems are likely to continue. Earlier this year, lawmakers and the governor approved budget measures that raised the annual ATV registration fee from $10 to $25. The extra $15 will eventually be dedicated to maintaining ATV trails, though for the -2006 fiscal year most of the hike supports general state spending. ATV riders pushed for the dedicated trail fund, but say specific program authority is still needed to spend the first $850,000 set aside for trails. The New York State Off-Highway Recreational Vehicle Association says the budget measure also required point-of-sale registration starting this summer, calling that a surprise for dealers of three- and four-wheelers and trailbikes. Assemblyman Joseph Morelle, a Rochester Democrat who chairs the Assembly Committee on Tourism, Arts and Sports Development and sponsored the registration measure, said fewer than half of the more than 300,000 estimated ATVS in New York were registered. The snowmobile statute sets the new maximum state 55 mph speed limit in late February, while revising registration fees two months later. It has a speed exception for races and rallies that get permits from the state parks commissioner. Current law prohibits driving at an imprudent speed that is "greater than reasonable or proper under the surrounding circumstances." Bill sponsors said one-third of snowmobile crashes are directly related to speed and say that nearly 170,000 sleds are registered in New York. The New York State Snowmobile Association backed the measure, which increases the annual registration fee to $100 for nonmembers of snowmobile clubs, leaving the current $45 fee for snowmobilers who belong. Most of the money goes to a dedicated trail fund. "The whole idea is to get people into clubs to increase the volunteer work force," said Jim Jennings, executive director of the 23,000-member association. New York has about 10,000 miles of snowmobile trails, mostly maintained by local clubs, whose membership fees average about $25 to $30, he said. Another safety provision requires snowmobile operators ages 10 to 13 who have a valid safety certificate to be accompanied by someone 18 or older. Currently with a certificate they can ride alone. The fine for operating an unregistered snowmobile will increase from $100 to $200. ——— On the Net: New York State Snowmobile Association: New York State Off-Highway Recreational Vehicle Association: