Government | Sauk Valley News

Lee County Board holds off on UTV ordinance

Liability concerns have townships rethinking allowing vehicles on roads

UTVs roll down South Peoria Avenue in Dixon on July 4, 2021, as part of the Petunia Festival parade.

DIXON – The Lee County Board is holding off on an ordinance allowing UTVs on county roads as officials still have questions about liability concerns.

The Blackhawk Trail Riders Club approached the county about six years ago about approving an ordinance to allow utility terrain vehicles to ride on county roads, with the overall goal of creating a connected, regional UTV trail.

The vote stalled after concerns were raised about safety and liability, as well as state legislation.

Talks were resurrected last year, and the board formed a special UTV committee to iron out the details of an ordinance that would regulate such vehicles on the road.

Cities allowing UTVs include Dixon, Amboy and Paw Paw, and committee members reached out to area townships to see which ones had already approved ordinances.

Eight out of 22 townships had rules in place allowing UTVs, but three have recently made the decision to withdraw following a letter from TOIRMA, which provides insurance coverage for townships throughout Illinois, saying allowing UTVs would be a liability risk for municipalities.

The board decided to postpone a vote last month after Ashton 15-year-old Calvin Messer was killed in a UTV rollover incident between Ashton and Franklin Grove where two others were injured.

Earlier this month, the county’s public safety, health and judicial committee was looking to take the ordinance back to the County Board, but it didn’t get the OK from the executive committee. Board members have also brought up the concern about having county roads with a 55 mph speed limit when UTVs are only allowed on roads with 35 mph limits.

“There are some major issues that are coming up, and townships are starting to pull out,” board member Mike Koppien said.

In areas that allow it, the vehicles are restricted to roads with speed limits of 35 mph or less and are prohibited from traveling on state highways, unless it is to cross the road. The vehicles must also be street-legal, meaning they need seat belts, turn signals and other safety features.

Board members Jack Skrogstad and Keane Hudson said state legislation would remedy many of their questions. Legislation has been introduced throughout the years but has not been approved.

The UTV committee plans to have a special meeting Tuesday to further discuss the ordinance.

Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers joined Sauk Valley Media in 2016 covering local government in Dixon and Lee County.