Draft rules mandate safety training

Off-road vehicle drivers will see a mandatory safety-training certification course phased in over the next six years, and only certified adults will be able to supervise young riders under new draft rules meant to improve Oregon's off-road safety record.

Rules requiring that riders of off-road motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles must mount only machines built to their body sizes also highlight a package of proposed rules being floated statewide by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

The draft rules, for which the department is now taking public comment, are the agency's attempt to implement new safety rules approved by the Oregon Legislature last year that would take effect in 2009.

Modeled in part after Oregon's boater-education requirements, the still-unfinished on-line curriculum and tests would cover various safety aspects of riding on Oregon's public dunes, forests and deserts.

"Our goal is to make a good, comprehensive curriculum, but not to be so onerous as to take weeks and weeks to complete," said Kyleen Stone, the agency's assistant director for recreation programs and planning. "A couple solid days should do it."

As drafted, the rules would require mandatory safety training for all riders under age 16 as well as adults supervising youths, Stone said.

The curriculum likely will include 17 chapters, with tests after each chapter, and will be written with an emphasis on helping riders through the course work.

"We want them to have the information," Stone said. "We want them to be safe and we want them to be able to pass the course."

In 2010, all riders under age 31 would fall under the rules canopy, and the requirements would increase annually by 10 years until all riders of Oregon's roughly 150,000 registers ORVs would be required to possess an ATV education card by 2014, Stone said.

State parks officials, who were put in charge of the program by the Legislature, will hold a public meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Medford library to present the draft rules and take comment.

The agency will accept public comment on the draft through Friday.

Medford marks the fifth and final stop on the ATV rules tour, where crowds have been light and opposition slim so far, Stone said.

"The goal is to keep people safe, particularly kids," she said. "It's kind of hard to argue with."

Grants Pass ATV rider Tom Tobey, who served on an advisory committee that helped parks officials draft the rules, said he believes seasoned adult riders should have little trouble navigating the course.

"It'll take about 15 minutes for them to get their certificate," Tobey said. "It'll be newer folks coming into the sport who will need to take longer.

"Our main focus really was the kids 16 and under who are riding ATVs," Tobey said.

The final rules also likely will include language that would create a short-course on safety for patrons of ATV rental agencies, Stone said. That would include a temporary permit for rental-ATV riding that day, she said.

The new rules focus on drivers who operate on public lands open for recreation. Off-road vehicle drivers are exempt from the rules while riding on private lands.

Parts of the new law took effect Jan. 1. Those rules require that anyone under age 16 years old must ride with helmet chin-strap fastened and must be supervised by someone at least 18 years old and receive accredited ATV training.

However, the training curriculum to receive that accreditation has not yet been completed. To satisfy that requirement in 2008, parks officials have required only that the supervisor hold a valid driver's license.

The one-time, phase-in portions of the new safety rules were modeled after the popular boating requirements for people driving motorboats of 10 horsepower or more. Other aspects are modeled after an online curriculum used in Minnesota, Stone said.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

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