Public safety departments looking to make off-road vehicles street legal

Published: May. 12, 2015 at 2:26 PM EDT|Updated: May. 16, 2015 at 8:15 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - A bill introduced by North Carolina State Representative Ted Davis could make off-road utility vehicles legal to drive on the streets of Wilmington.

House Bill 102 has passed both the state House and Senate, but a committee needs to iron out some specifics in the legislation.

The Wilmington Fire Department has two utility vehicles used for transportation purposes, according to WFD Battalion Chief David Hines.

Hines explained Tuesday the utility vehicles are used to transport items and people. He said the vehicles have been previously used at big fires, train derailments, and festivals.

"This was designed to be able to get the equipment to the scene where we needed it. It's a lot easier to have the vehicle do it for you than to manually have to do it," said Hines.

Tony McEwen, the City of Wilmington's Assistant to the City Manager for Legislative Affairs, explained that the fire department's utility vehicles currently need transportation of their own before they can be used at events.

"Really it was a waste of resources for our public safety officials because they would have to trailer a vehicle like this," explained McEwen.

He said that local public safety officials wanted legislative change so that the vehicles could be better utilized.

"Both our fire department and our police department brought it to my attention and I put it on our legislative agenda and we worked with Representative Ted Davis," McEwen elaborated.

McEwen explained that if this bill is signed into law, public safety officials will be able to operate utility vehicles on public streets as long as the street's speed limit is under 35 mph.

"We have a lot of streets in the downtown area that are 35 mph and under that we think this will be really useful for," McEwen said.

He explained that the vehicles could be operated on street with speed limits over 35 mph as long as the vehicles were en route to another road with a speed limit of 35 mph or lower.

McEwen elaborated that the new legislation would ultimately benefit the public.

"This is resources that our taxpayers paid for and invested in so we'll be able to make better use of this on behalf of taxpayers," he said.

Another part of the legislation would modify the state's 'move-over law' that requires drivers to avoid emergency vehicles parked on the side of the road. The modification would apply the law to solid waste and recycling vehicles.

McEwen said the bill could be signed into law in "a matter of days" or "a matter of weeks."

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