California Hikes Age for Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Drivers

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California Governor Jerry Brown issued a legislative update highlighting his approval of AB 1595, which increases the minimum age for drivers of recreational off-highway vehicles from 14 (and younger) to 16.

Who introduced AB 1595?

Around the Capitol notes that assembly member Paul Cook (R-Yucaipa) introduced AB 1595. The senate floor's bill analysis highlights that Cook introduced the bill upon the request of the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association. It is supported also by Kawasaki Motors Corporation, U.S.A.

What does the new law accomplish?

AB 1595 defines recreational off-highway vehicles as being manufactured to operate off highways, feature a steering control mechanism or wheel and offer non-straddle seating surfaces for occupants. These vehicles are designed to travel faster than 30 miles per hour. The minimum age to operate a recreational off-highway vehicle is set at 16, unless a parent or authorized adult supervises the youngster. Operators and passengers must wear safety helmets and seatbelts.

What did the old operator rules specify?

Prior to the governor's approval of AB 1595, the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation division of the California State Parks Department had instituted a "reach and operate law." If a minor was tall enough to reach all of the controls required to safely operate recreational off-highway vehicles, it was legal for the youngster to do so. Parents and supervising adults were cautioned to ensure that nobody younger than 14, who did not have the ability to reach all of the controls, would operate these vehicles.

Where are trails accessible to off-highway vehicles?

Drivers of recreational off-highway vehicles look to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for allotted trails and lands. Examples include Shasta County's Chappie-Shasta OHV area northwest of Redding. There are approximately 200 miles of open trails on a 52,000-acre land parcel. Another well-known area is Rasor in San Bernardino County. Near the Mojave National Preserve, the main attraction of these trails is the sandy consistency of the terrain.

Have there been other recent changes affecting drivers of recreational off-highway vehicles?

The Blue Ribbon Coalition highlighted the California legislature's June decision to end "support for OHV recreation on federal lands." As a result, off-highway vehicle trail maintenance, construction and safety monitoring is no longer funded. Known as the "sustainable parks initiative," Gov. Brown's signature on the law is thought to have far-reaching consequences that affect more than off-highway vehicle use of contested land. Addressing proponents of the bill, the Blue Ribbon Coalition's spokesperson warned, "They have exacerbated the problem by gutting a working, self-sustaining model program."

Sylvia Cochran is a Los Angeles area resident with a firm finger on the pulse of California politics. Talk radio junkie, community volunteer and politically independent, she scrutinizes the good and the bad from both sides of the political aisle.

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