Bill would let ATVs travel at higher speeds on some Iowa roads

DES MOINES — A bill under consideration in the Iowa Senate would let drivers operate all-terrain vehicles at higher speeds on some Iowa roads.

A law passed in 2022 lets ATVs travel on county roads and two-lane state highways at no more than 35 miles an hour. Senator Mike Klimesh, a Republican from Spillville, said ATVs can be a hazard when they’re moving at 35 miles an hour.

“If they’re able to travel at speed and desire to travel at speed and matches the speed on the highway it eliminates some possible concerns about folks having to go around them that maybe, on the spur of the moment, that was not in their best interest,” Klimesh said this morning during a subcommittee hearing on the bill.

State law also allows ATVs to travel on gravel roads if they’re being used for farming. Klimesh said ATVs driving at 35 miles an hour or less on a gravel road are at risk of being rear ended.

“If I’ve traveled that gravel road every day of my life going to and from my farm unit or going to and from work, I come upon a dust cloud, I’m assuming that that dust cloud is traveling at 45 or 50, which is an average speed for gravel roads I would say for gravel roads throughout the state, except in springtime,” Klimesh said, “then I encounter something that’s limited to 35 miles an hour I don’t know it because it’s inside of a dust cloud.”

Alyson DeMoss, a lobbyist for the Iowa Motorcycle Dealers Association, said the group supports letting ATVs drive up to 35 miles an hour on some roads, but not at higher speeds.

“It is our opinion that this raises an increased safety concern in this state. The machines are not made to go at those speeds,” DeMoss said during this morning’s subcommittee hearing. “…If a machine is able to go those speed limits, oftentimes they have equipment that is not rated to do that. The tires can be rated much less than that.”

Senator Tony Bisignano, a Democrat from Des Moines, opposed the bill. Bisignano said if it advances further, he’d like to let Iowa’s largest counties with the most traffic say no to letting ATVs move at higher speeds. “How really important is it we move this speed limit if it risks one child, one young person being killed?” Bisignano asked. “We drive these roads, too, and us being in a car and seeing these vehicles flying at 50 miles an hour.”

The bill cleared a Senate subcommittee this morning and is eligible for a vote in the Senate Transportation Committee.