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Wheeling Council Poised To Allow Certain Special Purpose Vehicles on City Streets

Photos Provided The city of Wheeling is set to adopt a new traffic rule that will allow certain special purpose vehicles to be driven on city streets. Street-legal special purpose vehicles, such as the one pictured at left, must be licensed, registered, inspected and insured like any other street-legal motor vehicle or motorcycle would be. The proposed rule does not make typical off-road vehicles, such as the one shown at right, legal to drive on city streets.

WHEELING — City officials are set to pass a new traffic rule Tuesday clearly defining which types of special purpose vehicles will be considered street legal in Wheeling.

The action comes after a new state law passed last year authorizing a new class of street-legal vehicles. The city ordinance slated for a final reading during Tuesday night’s meeting of Wheeling City Council will put the city’s traffic code in line with the new state rules for these vehicles.

A public hearing on the proposal is slated to take place at the beginning of Tuesday’s regular council meeting, at 5:30 p.m. in council chambers at the City-County Building on Chapline Street.

According to the new state regulations and the city’s proposed Traffic Code 356, special purpose vehicles to be deemed street legal must meet several requirements.

These vehicles include utility terrain vehicles, mini-trucks and other special purpose vehicles that must be titled, licensed and registered, insured and pass inspection like any other motor vehicle in West Virginia.

Permitted vehicles typically are side-by-side vehicles that must have a roll cage, seatbelts, headlights, turn signals, a license plate and a state inspection sticker.

The new street-legal rule does not pertain to a variety of all-terrain vehicles commonly used for off-road recreation or utility purposes on private property. Permitted vehicles, according to the new code, must be registered and licensed just as any street-legal motorcycle would be.

Additionally, street-legal special purpose vehicles will be prohibited from traveling farther than 20 miles on a public roadway and cannot travel on an interstate or on any controlled-access highway.

“By creating and enacting Article 356 ‘Special Purpose Vehicles,’ we not only add licensed, inspected and insured vehicles to our streets, but we also provide our citizens and law enforcement officials clear and concise guidelines as to which types of vehicles that are not permitted on the streets within Wheeling city limits,” Councilman Dave Palmer said.

Last month, the Public Safety Committee of Council met to discuss these issues at length in light of the state’s new traffic rule adopted in 2020. Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger and other members of the Wheeling Police Department spoke during the meeting, taking no specific stance on the new state traffic code, but asking city leaders to clarify whether or not the city’s code should be in line with West Virginia’s new rule.

Schwertfeger said the new state code created a gray area that made it difficult for city police to enforce traffic codes related to those vehicles, and owners of these special purpose vehicles also were unsure of their permissible use within the city limits. Several special purpose vehicle owners also attended the Public Safety Committee meeting last month to advocate for the city adopting the new state traffic rule.

Other municipalities in West Virginia have adopted the new state rule, and no related problems have been reported because of it, officials said. City leaders have noted that there should be no misconception that this new legislation will permit typical off-road “mudding” ATVs and three-wheelers, golf carts and other vehicles to zip up and down Wheeling’s public roads.

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