North Carolina wants to change how it regulates all-terrain vehicle use and passenger ferries on its Outer Banks. The House passed the bill, known as S241, in May. It was then sent back to Senate. On June 1, the two chambers failed to concur, and a conference committee was established to work out any differences. The conference committee is currently meeting, and representatives from the town of Ocracoke are in attendance.
The Ferry Division previously used a boat that was leased from another state. The boat was not registered in North Carolina so locals would drive it there to avoid having to pay registration fees. Unseen Pass’s owner Kyle Wrightenberry discovered this loophole and created an out-of state rental service that would rent side-by-side vehicles with outside-of-state registrations. This new workaround created a huge headache for UTV owners, and sparked the ratification of Senate Bill 241.
The walk-on ferry service was set to start on May 25 and would run until Sept. 9, but recent efforts to secure funding for the project have run into opposition in the state Senate. Despite the delays, the ferry may be able to start operations in August if the N.C. Ferry Division receives funding from the General Assembly. To understand the situation, we spoke to Rand Mathews, Hyde County commissioner, and Rand Mathews, former Hyde County manager.
The bill is expected to take effect in October 2021. It will be applicable to four-wheeled vehicles called “modified utility vehicle”. This category includes UTVs, Mahindra Roxors, and a variety of other bizarre vehicles. It will not apply to off-road vehicles such as snowmobiles. However, there will be a few changes to the law before that date. In the meantime, owners of modified utility vehicles in North Carolina will be able to register their vehicles legally, as long as they follow the rules.