FAIRBANKS — I see four-wheelers driving on the sidewalk near Chena Pump Road and almost on the road. Can an ATV operate on a highway? What about snowmachines during the winter on the median between the roads like on the Mitchell Expressway or Richardson Highway?
The answer to your question can be found in Alaska Administrative Code 13 AAC 02.455 and 13 AAC. 02.487, and for the purpose of brevity, I will address only the questions. A short answer is “no” a snowmobile or off-highway vehicle cannot be operated on a highway like a regular motor vehicle; however there are some exceptions and rules.
13 AAC 02.455 states a snowmachine or an off-highway vehicle (ATV, dirt bike, etc.) may be driven on a roadway or shoulder of a highway when crossing a highway at a right angle to the highway and at a location where visibility in both directions is clear with sufficient distance to ensure a safe crossing. The vehicle needs to be brought to a complete stop as well before crossing the shoulder or roadway, and the driver must yield the right-of-way to all traffic on the highway. The snowmachine or ATV may traverse a bridge or culvert on a highway, but then only by driving at the extreme right-hand edge of the bridge or culvert, when it is safe, and is not interfering with other traffic on the highway. A snowmobile or off-highway vehicle may be driven on a highway when snow, ice or other natural conditions restrict normal travel, or if otherwise designated as being open to travel by off-highway vehicles. If the authority having jurisdiction over the highway authorizes travel on the highways such as in rural Alaska then you can operate only in accordance with restrictions which may be imposed by that authority.
You can operate your snowmachine or off-highway vehicle when it is driven on the right-of-way of the highway with is not a controlled access highway, outside the roadway or shoulder, and no closer than three feet from the nearest edge of the roadway. If you drive at night, you can only drive on the right hand side and in the same direction as the motor vehicle traffic on the roadway. (Your snowmachine or off-highway vehicle will need to meet lighting requirements.)
The same AAC states that no person may drive an off-highway vehicle with the area dividing the roadways of a divided highway except to cross the highway like I explained above. Therefore, that nice, smooth median area of the Richardson Highway and Mitchell Expressway during the winter time is off-limits to off-highway vehicles, particularly snowmachines.
A controlled access highway means every highway, street or roadway where access to or from the highway is determined by the public authority having jurisdiction or the highway, street, or roadway. In the case of the question this would apply to the Mitchell Expressway and Richardson Highway as access is controlled by on and off ramps and designated roadways. The Steese Highway and Parks Highway are other quick examples.
Finally, no snowmachine or other off-highway vehicle may cross or travel on a sidewalk, a location intended for pedestrian or other non-motorized traffic, an alley, or a vehicular way or area which is not open to snowmobile or off-highway vehicle operations. So please stay off the sidewalks with your ATVs and snowmachines.
The fines for operating a snowmachine or ATV on a roadway is $50 and two points accessed on your driver’s license. Operating on a pedestrian path is a $100 fine and no points assessed.
Please remember do not drive impaired, and show respect.
Sgt Charles Inderrieden, of the Fairbanks Post, D Detachment, is judicial services supervisor with the Alaska State Troopers.