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Good Article on Responsible Access in Arizona

4423 Views 3 Replies 2 Participants Last post by  shooterman
I found this on

<a href="" target="_blank"> ... 2087&rfi=6</a>

For future reference I have copied the article here:

Growing ATV use can spur confrontation, environmental damage

Chris Vasquez, Pinal County sheriff May 30, 2006

Since the early 1990s, ATV use has tripled across the United States. This has led to greater conflict between ATV users, child-safety advocates, rural landowners, fellow outdoor recreationists and environmentalists.
Some ATV riders cross privately owned property and travel overland where their use is explicitly limited to trails. Further, environmentalists criticize ATV riders for excessive use in areas they consider biologically sensitive, especially our national forest area and state land. While the deep treads on some ATV tires are effective for navigating rocky, muddy and root-covered terrain, these treads also dig channels that may drain boggy areas, increase sedimentation in streams at crossings and damage our deserts' natural landscaping.
To address these land-usage concerns, some well-funded ATV advocacy groups have been organized to purchase property and/or obtain permission of landowners, build and maintain trails suitable for ATV riding and educate ATV riders about responsible riding.

Unfortunately, the image of the great majority of responsible riders is often tainted by the actions of an extremely small minority who ride off designated trails, on private land without permission, and under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Additionally, self regulation has proven particularly difficult considering that the main public complaint against ATVs is excessive noise. Although the majority of ATVs comply with noise regulations, there are those whose intentional violation can disturb the activities of other recreational users and homeowners for miles across open landscapes. Tampering with an ATV's exhaust silencer and spark arrestor is illegal on all federal lands and most state lands. It is also possible to install aftermarket exhaust systems that do not have silencers and spark arrestors.

Nationally, the U.S. Forest Service considers managed ATV use to be a legitimate activity in national forests, yet it also lists their unregulated use as one of the four greatest threats to long-term forest management. The Forest Service recently released a national travel management plan designed to minimize the negative environmental impacts of ATVs while providing a safe, sustainable and enjoyable opportunity for ATV users.

With the number of all-terrain vehicle riders climbing in Pinal County, the ATV sport is grabbing more and more attention as land managers try to balance its popularity with the county's natural resources.

ATV riding can be a blast, but it can also be damaging to public lands if not done responsibly. Managers encourage people to help protect the great outdoors by riding responsibly and practicing outdoor ethics, such as:

Stay only on trails or other areas designated for ATV use. You may ride on roads only if the ATV is street legal.

Try to stay in the middle of the trail to avoid widening it on switchbacks. Avoid roosting around the apex of the turn when climbing or brake-sliding during descent, both of which gouge the trail.

On slick trails, moderate the throttle and use the clutch to gain maximum traction with minimum wheel-spin. Try to avoid muddy trails; save them for future trips when they are dry.

Pack out what you pack in. Carry a trash bag on your vehicle and pick up litter left by others.

Following a ride, wash your ATV and support vehicle to avoid spreading noxious weeds the next time you ride.

Observe proper human waste disposal. Bury your waste at least six inches deep and camouflage the hole or pack out your waste.

Always wear a helmet, eye protection and other safety gear. Take an ATV training course to maximize safety. Call the ATV Safety Institute at 1-800-887-2887 for a course near you.

Be courteous; do not ride near homes or on private property. Respect their privacy and right to peace and quite. Respect our county's natural landscape.

ATV regulations

I would like to share some of the regulations that you should be aware of before purchasing and using your ATV.

The Motor Vehicle Division of the Arizona Department of Transportation is responsible for title and registration of motor vehicles in Arizona. Title and registration are two different things. The title is the proof of ownership, while the registration allows you to operate your vehicle on public roads. For title purposes ATVs are classified as off-road recreational motor vehicles. All new ATVs sold in Arizona are issued a title. You also will receive a license plate with the title. This is not a registration plate, and does not allow you to operate your ATV on streets or highways. This plate or registration plate must be securely fastened in a clearly visible position to the rear of the ATV. A registration license plate is necessary if you want to operate your ATV on roads requiring motor vehicle registrations. With some equipment modifications, ATVs can be registered in Arizona.

You may operate your ATV on some dirt roads in Arizona without the need to register or insure your vehicle. Arizona revised statute 28-2153.D.9 exempts an ATV from registration if you are operating on a dirt road in an unincorporated area of the state. For the purposes of motor vehicle registration and insurance, "dirt road" means an unpaved or ungraveled road that is not maintained by this state, or a city, town or county of this state. A good rule of thumb is that if you see highway signs such as speed limit or stop signs, or the road has been developed or built up with gravel or natural materials, your vehicle must be registered. With proper registration, riding an ATV on a paved road is not illegal, but it is unsafe. ATVs are not designed to be operated on a paved surface. They are difficult to maneuver and increase the danger of an accident.

To operate your ATV on a street or highway, you must observe all traffic laws and regulations including: You must have a drivers license, ATV must be registered, ATV must be insured, registration and proof of insurance must be carried with the ATV, person under 18 must wear a helmet, all persons must wear eye protection, and you may not carry a passenger. All manufacturers of ATVs agree that operating an ATV with a passenger can cause loss of control leading to serious injury or death.

To register and operate your ATV on a street or highway, your ATV must have the following: At least one brake that may be operated by hand or foot, brake light, at least one but not more than two headlights that shine at least five hundred feet ahead, at least one taillight, visible for a least five hundred feet to the rear, at least one red reflector, if not part of the taillight, license plate securely fastened to the rear of the ATV, license plate light, horn, audible from a distance of at least two hundred feet, muffler in good working order and in constant operation, a rearview mirror, seat and footrests for the operator, fuel tank cap.

State Trust Lands

To travel on roads and trails not publicly maintained on State Trust Land you must have a recreational permit. The recreation permit allows travel only on existing roads and trails. Cross country travel is prohibited, except for hunters picking up legally killed big game. Chasing or frightening livestock or wildlife is prohibited.

National Forest

Some roads in the National Forests require your vehicle to be registered. Roads marked with a horizontal number sign on National Forests generally require motor vehicle registration. Most roads marked with vertical numbered signs are generally open to unregistered motor vehicles.

Bureau of Land Management

Public roads and highways crossing BLM lands require motor vehicle registration. Many back country roads and some washes are open to unregistered motor vehicles. The best information on riding opportunities, rules and seasonal closures can be found by contacting the BLM field office.

Areas closed to all motor vehicles

No person shall drive a motor vehicle cross-country on public or private lands where such cross-county driving is prohibited by rule or regulation, or in the case of private lands, by proper posting, A.R.S. 17-454. All areas and trails within wilderness areas are closed to mechanized use; this includes ATV's, motorcycles and bicycles.

Reckless driving/driving while impaired

It is unlawful for a person to drive an off-highway vehicle with reckless disregard for the safety of person or property. The operation of an ATV requires skill and good judgment, drugs and alcohol impair both. You become a danger to yourself and others when you operate your ATV and use drugs or drink alcohol. Laws regarding DUI apply everywhere in the state. You will be arrested if you are driving under the influence, even if you are on a back country trail, and the penalties are the same, including jail and the loss of your driver license.

Other tips

The most common complaints that come into the Sheriff's Office about ATV's are that people do not respect other people or their property. If you are riding in an area, do not kick up dust near homes, or make a lot of noise near homes and please pick up your trash.

Pinal County Sheriff's deputies and posse will be patrolling those areas where we have reports of violations occurring. Citations will be issued, and ATVs will be impounded if necessary.

Thank you, be safe, respect others and God bless.

This column is written monthly for Tri-Valley Dispatch by Chris Vasquez, Pinal County sheriff.
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a lot of great info and reminders. the enviros have really put the damper on el dorado nf. it doesn't apply so much to me because i always stay on forest service roads anyway. the push is on to curtail alot of atv acivity in all the calif nf. you should repost in other places in that i'm not sure there are a lot of readers down here.
Thanks for the input shooterman

Here is a response after I posted this on


Pretty good article!

He was incorrect in two areas.

Per Arizona Traffic codes, You can ride passengers on ATVs IF the ATV was DESIGNED and MANUFACTURED for two riders. There are only three companies who make and sell two seat quads: Bombardier-Can Am, Polaris, & Artic Cat. You CAN NOT make your single seat quad into a two seater for legal double "riding on the road.

Per Arizona Traffic codes, only the operator needs eye protection, not the passenger.


I sent the following E-mail to Sheriff Vasquez:

"Sheriff Vasquez,

I recently read your article on ATV operation. The article has made it on several ATV forum web sites and is very informative. As you know, the majority of ATV operators are responsible and want to follow the laws, but most are not aware of all the legal requirements. Your article was well written and spreads the message of responsible ATV use. It is refreshing to see a community leader taking the time to educate the public about ATV use in a well balanced, impartial format.

I am an avid ATV rider, owning both sport ATVs and 4 X 4 ATVs. My friends and I ride often in Pinal County and welcome an ATV friendly approach from law enforcement. As ATV use increases, Pinal County can welcome responsible ATV riders to recreate in the county and thereby bringing much needed tax revenue to the county, as the visitors will be stopping at gas stations & restaurants.

Also, I have been in law enforcement for over twenty years with Mesa PD. I have been a motor officer for the past 8 years and I am now a collision reconstruction expert. Part of my responsibilities is to research and advise officers about interpretations of the traffic laws. I have done extensive research on ATVs and the law.

I have been educating people via various website forums about ATV laws for the past several years. Your article re-enforces what I have been writing in these forums.

Unfortunately, there were two minor mis-statements in the article referring to street legal ATV use. I am only informing you so that a well meaning deputy does not only read the article and then make a mistake enforcing the law. In my experience, a lot of fellow law enforcement officers are not aware of all the requirements or nuances for legal ATV operation on the road.

Per Arizona Traffic Codes, You can ride passengers on ATVs IF the ATV was DESIGNED and MANUFACTURED for two riders. There are only three companies who make and sell two seat quads: Bombardier-Can Am, Polaris, & Artic Cat. You CAN NOT make a single seat quad into a two seater for legal double riding on the road.

And, Per Arizona Traffic Codes, only the operator needs eye protection, not the passenger.

The codes are listed below.

"ARS 28-892. Riding on motorcycle or all-terrain vehicle

A person operating a motorcycle or all-terrain vehicle shall ride only on the permanent and regular seat attached to the motorcycle or all-terrain vehicle. The operator of a motorcycle or all-terrain vehicle shall not carry any other person and any other person shall not ride on a motorcycle or all-terrain vehicle unless the motorcycle or all-terrain vehicle is designed to carry more than one person. On a motorcycle or all-terrain vehicle designed to carry more than one person, a passenger may ride on the permanent and regular seat if it is designed for two persons or on another seat firmly attached to the motorcycle or all-terrain vehicle at the rear or side of the operator."

"28-964. Motorcycles; all-terrain vehicles; motor driven cycles; equipment; exception; prohibition

A. An operator or passenger of a motorcycle, all-terrain vehicle or motor driven cycle who is under eighteen years of age shall wear at all times a protective helmet on the operator's or passenger's head in an appropriate manner. The protective helmet shall be safely secured while the operator or passenger is operating or riding on the motorcycle, all-terrain vehicle or motor driven cycle. An operator of a motorcycle, all-terrain vehicle or motor driven cycle shall wear at all times protective glasses, goggles or a transparent face shield of a type approved by the director unless the motorcycle, all-terrain vehicle or motor driven cycle is equipped with a protective windshield. This subsection does not apply to electrically powered three wheeled vehicles or three wheeled vehicles on which the operator and passenger ride within an enclosed cab.

B. A motorcycle, all-terrain vehicle and motor driven cycle shall be equipped with a rearview mirror, seat and footrests for the operator. A motorcycle, all-terrain vehicle or motor driven cycle operated with a passenger shall be equipped with a seat, footrests and handrails for the passenger.

C. A person shall not operate a motorcycle, all-terrain vehicle or motor driven cycle equipped with handlebars that are positioned so that the hands of the operator are above the operator's shoulder height when the operator is sitting astride the seat and the operator's hands are on the handlebar grips."

Again, thank you for writing such a well conceived article. If you have any questions or comments, please E-mail me. My E-mail is my home E-mail address, as I wrote this to you on my off duty time, from home, and is not to be construed as an official communication from my department.

Thank you,

Tim Wight
Mesa, Az.

Below is the response from Sheriff Vasquez. I was suprised that he responded so quick. He seems to be a fair minded individual.


Thank you for your kind words. The purpose of my monthly articles is to inform the public on various topics. Many times education goes a long way to bringing citizens into compliance instead of writing tickets. Also, thank you for pointing out the two misstatements in the article. I'll pass those on to supervisory staff.

On another note, I too, am a former motor officer for the City of Casa Grande, specializing in accident reconstruction. Something in common.

Again, thank you for your email.

Chris Vasquez


Commucation between LEO's & Riders is the Key
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always a good idea to stay on the friendly side of gov't employees, especially important ones. more and more, calif is becoming an up hill battle and elected types do not want to be controversial. the enviros give no quarter and won't be happy until no one can enjoy public land unless they are wearing smooth soled slippers. it only takes a couple of irresponsibles to blow a couple roosters on the trails to ruin things for everyone. i hear that the enviros patiently wait on the paiute trail with their cameras waiting for some one to drive by a little fast so they can use the pictures in their propaganda.
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