QUESTION: I have a question about the use of ATVs/UTVs on public roads. I believe the Longview Police Department statements quoted recently in the News-Journal are incorrect.

They state that it is illegal to drive off-road vehicles on city streets. Not so. Texas House Bill 1548 went into effect Sept. 1, 2019, and I believe it does allow off-highway vehicles to be used on city streets and county roads where the posted speed limit is 35 mph or less. The vehicle is required to have an off-highway license plate, have the lights on while operating and operate only during daylight hours. The vehicles are not allowed on state highways.

I am getting conflicting information from law enforcement that I have talked to. My understanding is that the ATV/UTV must have the same equipment as a motorcycle — turn signals, horn, etc. to be legally driven on public roads. So my question is, when I drive my UTV with license plate and required equipment on Longview streets — am I legal and cannot be ticketed?

ANSWER: That really depends on a few factors, including the issues you mentioned, as well as how far you’re driving and the purpose of being on a public road. I should note that navigating the roads to get to stores after a winter storm are not one of the provisions made in the law. What it boils down to, though, is that law doesn’t allow off-highway vehicles — all-terrain vehicles, sand rails, utility vehicles and golf carts and other neighborhood electric vehicles — to drive on all roads for any reason we choose, even if the speed limit is 35 mph or less, without approval from the City Council. The Longview council has not approved something like that.

Here’s a look at some of the requirements, from the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles website. It says such vehicles may be operated:

“In a master planned community with a uniform set of restrictive covenants and a county or municipality-approved plat;

“On a road with a posted speed limit of not more than 35 mph, during the daytime and not more than two miles from the location where it is usually parked for transportation to and from a golf course;

“To cross intersections, including a road or street that has a posted speed limit of more than 35 mph.”

“Additionally, cities and certain counties may authorize operation of ATVs, ROVs, UTVs, and sand rails on roads within the boundaries of the city or within unincorporated areas of certain counties. The ATV, ROV, UTV and sand rail must display an off-highway vehicle license plate when operated on roads authorized by the city or county. Operation may be authorized only on roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or less. If operated on the roads at a speed of 25 mph or less, an ATV, ROV, UTV and sand rail is required to display a slow-moving vehicle emblem.”

Again, though, Longview has not authorized additional use beyond what the law indicates.

There are, of course, exceptions for such vehicles operated by government agencies, farmers, public utility employees and law enforcement and emergency service employees.

Longview police spokesman Brandon Thornton referred back to a photo the department posted on social media showing one of these types of vehicles parked in the Brookshire’s parking lot on Gilmer Road.

“It’s meant for a golf course, but that’s not what we were seeing,” Thornton said, saying the department was trying to make people aware the vehicles are generally not allowed on public roads in Longview.

Q: Did the IRS really delay the tax deadline for Texans?

A: Yes. It did, in an announcement the agency made on Monday.

The IRS is giving Texans (and people in other states that receive a FEMA disaster declaration because of the storm) until June 15 to file their returns and make tax payments.

”The tax relief postpones various tax filing and payment deadlines that occurred starting on February 11. As a result, affected individuals and businesses will have until June 15, 2021, to file returns and pay any taxes that were originally due during this period,” the IRS reported on its website. “This includes 2020 individual and business returns normally due on April 15, as well as various 2020 business returns due on March 15. Among other things, this also means that affected taxpayers will have until June 15 to make 2020 IRA contributions.”

THAT BRINGS ME TO THIS ANSWER LINE REMINDER: I spoke to Don Martin, coordinator of the local AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program. He started taking reservations this week for that free service, which will be available by appointment only from 12:30-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday at Wesley-McCabe United Methodist Church, at 1115 S. Mobberly Ave., starting Monday. For now the service will be offered through April 15. Martin said he was uncertain if the service would be extended to match the IRS’ extended filing period.

He said the first week’s appointments are almost filled up, but there’s plenty of time left. Make the required appointment reservations by calling him at (903) 238-3523 between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Also don’t forget the United Way’s free tax help for households that earned $60,000 or less in 2020. Visit the “Free Tax Preparation” link on the Greater Longview United Way website at www.longviewunitedway.org or call (903) 236-9211 to make an appointment.

Taxpayers also may complete their own taxes free of charge by visiting www.myfreetaxes.com.

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