Where is it?
Vermont (VT) is one of the smallest, land-locked states and has the second smallest population in the US. In part, the low number of people living there reflects both its northerly position bordering Canada, and the mountainous quality of the land (the name of the state probably being les vert monts or “the green mountains” in French). Come the fall, the dominant color is not green but, first, red, then orange and, finally, gold as winter approaches. It tends to record lower winter temperatures because most of the land is elevated by the Northeastern Highlands. This does not prevent the summers from being relatively warm and humid, making the state quite a popular tourist destination with people coming to enjoy the scenery as the forests change color. Come the snows, the skiers arrive in numbers to the largest resort area in New England. Vermont earns about 5% of its income from accommodation, food and beverage, employing about 7% of the workforce in tourism-related activities.
Moving around Vermont
Although there are some areas served by public transport, the coverage tends to be poor. There are only two Amtrak services and the track used by the Ethan Allen Express has been rated the worst in America. Not surprisingly, the result is that most people travel by automobile. There are about 605,000 vehicles registered for a population of 626,000, i.e. one car for everyone to drive. Except, of course, about 6% of households do not own a vehicle. This can be because of disability or elderly adult members form the household. There are also some who lose their driver’s license and decide not to risk driving without a license and car insurance.
Perhaps not surprisingly, there are only 2,840 miles of highways. So everyone can enjoy the scenery, there are no billboards. Wisely, Vermont decided to ban their use for advertising.
The road network
With Vermont featuring a major lake along one border, densely forested areas and mountains, many parts of the state are inaccessible by conventional wheeled vehicles. Somewhat controversially, some insist on accessing off-road areas at all times of the year. This can be destructive when four-wheel drive and “sport” vehicles such as ATVs cross the land when wet. During the winter months, many get out their snowmobiles and “have fun” making much noise, damaging the environment, and polluting the atmosphere.
Ignoring the supposed threat of climate change and the need to reduce the amount of pollution, there are many opportunities to explore this beautiful state. As a resident, just find some free time and take off to places loved or not yet seen. Coming as a tourist requires planning. There are a number of fly-drive packages if you live too far away to drive to the state comfortably. First you need to think about the time of year. The scenery is magnificent throughout the year, but winter driving is not always safe. Although the snow plows keep the major roads clear, local roads can be blocked for hours or days depending on how far off the beaten track you are. The most popular time is the fall when the foliage in the Green Mountain National Forest and other wooded areas is spectacular. Not surprisingly, the local hotel rates reflect the higher demand from the additional visitors. For the record, the most popular vehicle for locals to drive is the Subaru Outback. In winter, all-wheel drive is a necessity.
The state has a significant network of unmaintained roads. The Vermont Agency of Transportation has an up-to-date map for free download. If you have a legally registered four-wheel drive vehicle, you can safely and legally drive on any road marked on the map. But if you fail to get a free copy of the map or fail to read it, you can be fined if you drive on private land. The fine is $100 for each offense. If you damage property on private land, you can be required to pay compensation. Remember car insurance is mandatory for all motor vehicles including dirt bikes, ATVs, and so on. Title to all ATVs manufactured in 2004 or later must be registered unless they will only be used on private land, i.e. the ATVs will not cross a public road.
Under the age of twelve, a person may only operate an ATV while under the direct supervision of an adult. Anyone driving under the age of eighteen must have a safety training certificate. To understand why these law are in place, there were sixty-four deaths between 1982 and 2011, eleven being children under the age of sixteen. Remember there are border crossings into Canada. Although you do not need to carry a passport as an American citizen, you have to produce proof of your citizenship, e.g. a copy of your birth certificate, and some photo identification to be allowed entry.
Recognizing the popularity of this form of transport, there’s now more than 5,000 miles of trails as Vermont encourages both residents and tourists to stay mobile even when there’s thick snow on the ground. But with increased traffic comes safety concerns, so it’s now standard for enforcement officers to use portable radar guns on the trail to ticket travelers breaking the speed limits. Both residents and tourists should also note that snowmobiles are treated as vehicles for the purposes of drunken driving. The offense of snowmobiling while intoxicated applies to anyone on the VAST trails and includes incapacity produced by consuming drugs or alcohol or both. If you ride on a public road or sidewalk, you will be charged with DWI. If you’re convicted, you pick up points and your driver’s license is likely to be suspended.
Do You Know that…
1. It is the second smallest US state.
2. It is the only state in America to ban billboards for advertising.
3. It has one of the biggest ski resort areas in America.
4. The most popular vehicle by retail sales is the all-wheel drive Subaru Outback.
5. Both ATVs and snowmobiles are legally defined as motor vehicles and regulated in the same way as cars.
6. There’s a specific offense of intoxicated while driving a snowmobile.
7. At $995, it has the lowest average annual premium rate for auto insurance in the US.
8. If there’s an accident involving personal injury or damage costing more than $3,000 to repair, it must be reported to the Commissioner for motor Vehicles within seventy-two hours.
9. Anyone aged fifteen can get a Learner Perit if their parents or legal guardian approves.
10. If referred through the Vermont Bar Association, you can get a thirty-minute consultation with an attorney for less than $25.