First off-road training course for youth set up at LL River Park

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Anyone under the age of 18 who wants to drive an all-terrain or off-highway vehicle on federal or state lands must be safety certified and accompanied by an adult.

The state requires mandatory registration for all OHVs used on public lands, and safety certification for all drivers under the age of 18, said Marc Hildesheim with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: Los Lunas Open Space Ranger Pat Jaramillo stands at the Off-Highway Vehicle training course located in the River Park off Main Street, where youth under 18 can get their safety certification in order to drive ATVs and OHVs on state and federal lands. It is the first ATV and OHV training course in the state.

The Los Lunas Open Space Department has been working to educate the public about OHV safety certification, and wanted to find a way to make this easier for Valencia County residents.

Los Lunas Open Space Rangers Pat Jaramillo and Andrew Gutierrez began working with Hildesheim.

They found a suitable location on land managed by the village in the River Park to establish a training course.

“Because of incidents seen in the area, they took a huge step forward to implement safety for their community,” said Hildesheim.

“Anyone who wants to ride an OHV, ATV or motorcycle on state or federal lands, must take the safety course,” he said.

The result is the village has become the first in the state to have an OHV training course.

“Since the Open Space started, we have been dealing with trying to educate people about the ATVs and where they can and cannot ride,” said Jaramillo.

On Saturday, Nov. 17, the first batch of instructors were trained, and included Jaramillo, new Park Ranger Andres Jiminez, two game wardens, a Valencia County sheriff’s deputy and the Peralta Elementary School principal.

The new instructors have given two safety certification classes for local youth, and another is forming.

There is no charge for the training, but participants must have their own ATVs or OHVs, wear a New Mexico Department of Transportation approved helmet, goggles, gloves, long sleeve shirts and pants with over-the-ankle boots.

There is a minimum class size of four participants, and a maximum class size of eight.

The training course is also available for any law enforcement agency, organization or business where employees use ATVs or OHVs and safety certification is desired.

The training course was constructed by the village’s Open Space Department according to Game and Fish specifications to train OHV safety instructors and for youth to obtain their safety certification.

Generally, adults do not need to be safety certified to drive on public lands, and youth who will not be driving on state or federal lands don’t need to be safety certified, but if youths are caught driving on public lands without a safety permit, their parents will be fined $71 per child. Multiple offenders will face higher fines.

The small off-road vehicles seem to be large toys, but many people have been seriously injured while driving them.

Because of this, Los Lunas Open Space park rangers and the police officers and sheriff’s deputies have been working to educate people about safety and the laws and regulations concerning these type of vehicles.

Jaramillo said he has seen kids driving ATVs with more than one passenger, which is not legal.

“Even if it’s a two-seater, they can’t have a passenger,” Jaramillo said. “Only adults can have passengers — if they’re on a two-seater.”

It is also not legal to drive ATVs on paved roads or highways, or drive on irrigation ditches, which are managed by the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, Jaramillo said.

The four-hour training session teaches state rules and laws concerning OHVs, and instructs drivers on the course how to maneuver the vehicle on different terrain with the greatest amount of safety. The course finishes with a written test.

More instructors are needed, Hildesheim said.

Right now, they are focusing on law enforcement instructors, but will also consider people with a teaching background or adults with ATV or motorcycle experience.

“Our goal is to develop training sites all across the state,” he said. “We want to make the training as readily available to the public as possible. Within the next couple of years, we’re hoping to have 10 active training sites up and going.”

Eventually, the Game and Fish Department will have a schedule of trainings listed on its website.

Registration for the safety training must go through the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. Call Marc Hildesheim in Albuquerque at 222-4727 to register for a class.

The state mandated program is funded by OHV registration.

For more information about OHV laws and regulations, go to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish website at www.b4uride.com.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.