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Iowa Changes ATV/UTV Laws

Effective July 1, all-terrain vehicle (ATV) and utility-terrain vehicle (UTV) users will now be able to ride in any of Iowa’s 99 counties, with a few restrictions.

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Captain Jamie Van Voorst said, “An ATV is a vehicle that can be straddled by a single rider, while a UTV is designed with a cabin for multiple riders. The law change was largely the result of a 2020 survey completed by avid ATV and UTV users asking them which Iowa laws they wanted to see changed to support riding these vehicle. After more than 4,600 people responded to the survey, the State narrowed the suggestions down to two main points: Riders wanted to be able to operate their vehicles on more county and state roadways, and they wanted the opportunity to ride in all 99 Iowa counties.”

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The law change will still come with restrictions:

  • ATVs and UTVs have a speed limit of 35 mph.
  • All ATVs and UTVs must have operational headlights, tail and brake lights, horn and rearview mirrors.
  • They must be operated by a person who is at least 18 years old with a valid driver’s license and carrying valid proof of insurance.

There also remain several restrictions on which roads ATV and UTV users will be able to travel on:

  • If driving on a state two-lane highway or county highway, it must be over the most direct and accessible route to or from an all-terrain vehicle park or trail, to the nearest county road, or an authorized city street or one’s residence.
  • Riders may cross a four-lane highway at an intersection from an authorized road so long as it is not an Interstate highway.
  • ATVs and UTVs are not permitted to drive on any gravel or paved roadway that is marked under construction, closed or a detour for normal vehicle traffic.
  • ATVs and UTVs may be restricted from county roadways during special events, like RAGBRAI, for a maximum of seven days consecutively or 30 days in a year.
  • ATVs and UTVs may only be operated on state highways and may not travel on four-lane or interstate roads. They may be driven on any county unpaved gravel road.
  • Riders will be allowed to ride day or night.

All Iowa cities may regulate ATV and UTV traffic within their city limits, including primary and secondary road extensions, but cities may not charge a fee to ATV and UTV owners for use of their streets; these new laws will also override any county ordinances currently in place.

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In Sioux County since September 2018, when the ordinance began in Sioux County, there are 815 registered ATVs and 833 registered UTV/ORVs, according to Van Voorst. Prior to to the new law, riders in Sioux County paid $18.75 for the Iowa DNR sticker and $25 for a county sticker; with the new law, there will likely be no fees, but the Sioux County Sheriff’s Office is awaiting confirmation from the Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources.

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