What you need to know about the new ATV/UTV ordinance

ATV and UTV driving in mud and snow in winter.

As of Jan. 1, owners of all-terrain vehicles (ATV) and off-road utility vehicles (UTV) in Tama County will have a new framework to legally operate their vehicles on county roadways.

Last week the Tama County Supervisors approved an ordinance that allows for the legal operation of ATVs and UTVs on county roadways.

In September a group of concerned residents approached the supervisors requesting consideration be given to the adoption of an ATV/UTV ordinance in Tama County.

The petitioners said a tourism industry has been growing around ATV/UTV enthusiasts taking their vehicles out on day-rides or weekend trips to visit different attractions or scenic destinations.

The State of Iowa currently does not provide a statewide regulation for the recreational operation of ATVs and UTVs on public roadways, leaving cities and counties to devise their own ordinances.

Last year a bill sponsored by Republican Representative Bobby Kaufmann of Wilton seeking to allow ATVs and UTVs to be used on all county highways in the state made it past the first legislative funnel deadline but did not make it past the State Government House Committee for debate on the House floor.

During the September supervisors meeting Stan Upah, owner of U.S.S. Polaris in Toledo, estimated roughly 20 to 30 percent of his customers regularly traveled out of state to participate in recreational rides similar to motorcyclists or bicyclists.

Over the past few months, the supervisors and Tama County Human Resources Manager Tammy Wise worked to borrow language from other Iowa counties that had already passed an ATV/UTV ordinance and prepared a Tama County ordinance that could be put up for a public hearing.

At the time of the September meeting, there were no county officials voicing opposition including the supervisors as well as Tama County Sheriff Dennis Kucera who said his opinion on such an ordinance had changed over the years after hearing feedback from multiple deputies that it would be a helpful regulation to have.

Three public hearings were held at supervisors’ meetings in December with no comments being made by the public.

The supervisors then voted unanimously to approve the Tama County ATV/UTV Ordinance on Dec. 20. The regulations will take effect beginning January 1, 2022.

Operation on roadways

Beginning in January drivers can operate ATVs and UTVs on county roads that are dirt and gravel only. The speed limit for these vehicles is set at 35 mph.

Some cities within the county have their own regulations surrounding operation of ATVs and UTVs that differ from town to town and from the county ordinance.

Drivers must possess a valid driver’s license and must be at least 16 years of age.

Those under the age of 18 must complete an ATV Education Course by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and carry a completion certificate on board while driving.

All ATVs and UTVs are to be equipped with working headlights and taillights, a six-foot orange safety flag pole, and a muffling device.

Driving is prohibited in areas such as railroad right-of-ways, public lands, parks and wildlife areas and along streams and waterways unless otherwise designated by a trail.

ATVs and UTVs must carry no more passengers than the vehicle was designed to carry.

Registration requirements

Registration of ATVs and UTVs must be completed annually through the County Recorder’s office in Toledo. The Iowa DNR registration purchased through the County Recorder costs $17.75. Owners must also apply for and purchase a Tama County Decal for $25. Both registrations are valid from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31. The vehicle must display the DNR and Tama County decals as well as carry the registration paperwork on board.

Owners are required to provide proof of ownership of their ATV or UTV including their bill of sale, their Iowa DNR registration (or out-of-state equivalent) and proof of liability insurance.

The Tama County Decal Application can be obtained on the Tama County Recorder website and mailed in along with the fee. Those with registration questions are encouraged to contact the Tama County Recorder at 641-484-3320.

The county ATV/UTV ordinance does not apply to vehicles used as farm implements or in a farming operation as long as they are being used for their intended purpose.


Those found in violation of the ordinance may be charged with a fine of up to $625 plus court costs and/or up to 30 days in jail. The violation is considered a simple misdemeanor.