As soon as the weather turns warm you can count on off road vehicles of all types to start zipping through neighborhoods and side streets. The bolder (or stupider) riders also take to the major thoroughfares.
Española City Police Chief Roger Jimenez at the July 8 Public Safety Committee meeting took a run at city councilors to have an ordinance passed that would align regulations on city streets and state roads. The city is dominated by state roads, including Riverside Drive, Paseo de Oñate and McCurdy Road, the three north-south passages.
The current city ordinance allows vehicles over 1,000 pounds but has no other restrictions, nor definitions.
The current state law allows side by sides, or Off Highway Vehicles with two seats, a steering wheel, brake lights and headlights. It does not allow “straddled” vehicles, which are basically motorcycles with four wheels.
Jimenez said in a July 24 phone conversation he wanted to align state law with city law, making enforcement more cohesive and simpler.
The Village of Chama has an old ordinance allowing any off road vehicle on Village streets. Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Major Billy Merrifield said July 24 the old ordinance makes it difficult to educate the public during Chama Days that Chama’s main thoroughfare is state highway, hence they’re illegal on those state highways.
Merrifield said if the city passes an ordinance making smaller, or straddled, ATVs legal on city streets County deputies will be stuck trying to enforce a state and a city law in opposition of each other. Aligning with state law would be better.
He also has problems with people driving them on public streets when it’s clear they’re not enroute to a recreation area.
“They’re not for everyday use,” Merrifield said. “They need to be off the streets.”
Merrifield cited the lack of safety equipment, seat belts and roll bars.
Anyone who has traveled Riverside Drive or perhaps lives near someone who owns one of these machines, knows that by and large ATV owners don’t much care about the law. They’re going to ride their ATVs wherever they so choose.
Merrifield said it’s County policy to not chase people driving an ATV because of the high possibility of a bad, possibly fatal, accident.
“Most of these guys when we try to stop them they run,” he said. “They know we can’t chase them.”
A look at the E-911 Computer Automated Dispatch log shows police and deputies have some sort of encounter with an ATV driver an average of three times in a 24-hour period. These encounters vary from speeding, donuts in a parking lot, accidents or being stopped because they’re not supposed to be on state highways.
A 38-year-old man in the July 14 dispatch log couldn’t get out of bed the next day after an ATV turned over on him. The log wasn’t clear where the accident happened, but that’s Karma.
Routinely police and deputies stop ATVs, have them parked and parents must retrieve them with a trailer. Our law enforcement officials should not be baby-sitting teens or be teaching physics to adults.
These vehicles are called Off Highway Vehicles because they were made for “off highway” use. They’re still just as dangerous out on federal land away from traffic but that’s the individual’s choice to do something dangerous. They are not allowed to choose to conduct dangerous behavior on public streets where others can be hurt.
The city would do well to keep all of them illegal on city streets and instruct the chief to start citing scofflaws, instead of making them park while daddy comes and cleans up their mess.