Government Police/Fire

Operation of ATVs on Public Property Now Illegal in West Hartford

Screenshot from video of ATVs and other vehicles riding on both sides of Farmington Avenue near Riggs Road. Courtesy photo (we-ha.com file photo)

The West Hartford Town Council on Tuesday night adopted an ordinance making the operation of ATVs on public property illegal in town.

By Ronni Newton

The West Hartford Police Department now has one more tool to control situations like those that arose in the warm weather months when parades of ATVs and other vehicles not licensed for road use sped through the streets of town.

Tuesday night the Town Council, following a public hearing, adopted an ordinance making it illegal for anyone to drive or be a passenger on an all-terrain vehicle on any town-owned land “including but not limited to streets, sidewalks, parks, or any other property owned or leased by the town.” Violation of the ordinance will result in a fine of $108.

The ordinance (see PDF below) also provides police with the authorization to seize any illegally-operated ATV, to have it towed to a storage facility at the owner’s expense, and to sell the vehicles at public auction.

On multiple occasions this past summer and early fall, as many as several hundred ATVs and other vehicles created a dangerous situation for motorists, pedestrians, police, and themselves during joy rides through West Hartford and other area towns, often at a very high rate of speed and sometimes on sidewalks and lawns, while ignoring traffic controls. Town Manager Matt Hart said this ordinance would give the police department a tool that could help impact the behavior.

“The time is now where we need to get ahead of this issue and send a message – we need to protect our residents in town and we need to protect our staff,” Council member Carol Anderson Blanks, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said during the hearing.

The ordinance was crafted following discussion at the committee level, and Blanks said it addresses a public safety hazard that needed to be taken care of immediately, rather than taking a “wait and see” attitude.

“It’s a step in the right direction and it’s another tool for our public safety officers,” Al Cortes, a newly-elected member of the Council and a former Department of Corrections employee, said.

The town currently does not allow motorized scooters on roadways, but Mayor Shari Cantor said that portion of the existing ordinance may require another look if the town were to implement a motorized scooter program like the one Hartford has.

West Hartford’s ordinance does not address e-bikes, or motorized wheelchairs, Hart confirmed.

The ordinance was adopted unanimously, 8-0, by all members of the Council who were present. Minority Leader Mary Fay was absent from the meeting.

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1 Comment

  • New Ordinance?!? Hasn’t “operating an unregistered motor vehicle,” “driving on wrong side of road,” “failure to grant right of way,” “failure to stop at sign or signal,” “misuse of lane,” and “reckless driving,” for starters, been illegal for almost as long as motor vehicles have existed?

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