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By Jim Rue

April 24, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) -- There are many ignorant riders who think they’re driving and in control of their off-road vehicles. But each season, somebody rides without protective gear and gets injured or killed.

The only reason there are rules is because of ignorance.  Back in the ‘80s, when the three wheeler was popular and the fools started riding them like two wheelers, as a result “bam,” new rules. No more three wheelers, because it’s a “bad” machine.  Then of course there’s the “smart” legislator who knows all too well what is best for you and creates a law specific to ATVs, a certification. You’ve got to have it or else, your stupidity will cost you a ticket. 

Then there’s the media, which loves to glorify negative behavior. Start their treadmill, and the machines become “bad, bad” machines--NOT the driver, but the machine. There’s also the helmet law; did you know that technically you can ride an “off-road motorcycle” off-road without a helmet? It’s funny, but you don’t see motocross/supercross racers without a helmet, or without other protective gear.  I do find it interesting when I read or hear about riders being thrown out of their unit, and receiving head injuries. I guess they’re special and don’t need helmets or restraint systems? Generally people don’t get thrown out of an ATV or dirt bike; you get thrown off, sometimes.  Side-by-sides (ROV) are not motorcycles like two wheelers or four wheelers (ATVs, Quads); they are off-road vehicles, each with a steering wheel and hopefully a roll cage.

Because of so many incidents across the U.S., licenses and/or certification will be required for all off road vehicle riding. Some “wacko” will find a way to band gasoline driven vehicles on public lands, someday.

Each year, off-roaders get hurt, because of dumb mistakes like getting sunburned from wearing only a helmet, (yes only a helmet); riding double, riding without protective gear, riding drunk, or someone is not watching their children. Parents put little ones on these machines without thinking.  Kids will try to mimic others (like YOU).  Parents will buy machines too big “thinking” their kid can handle it, even though they cannot even reach the controls.  Parents think “that’s okay, they will grow into it.” 

It’s sad to hear off-road manufactures being sued because people fail to follow the instructions. They don’t read the owner’s manual or labels on the vehicle, or just take a riding course, often free, sometimes for a fee, and sometimes manufacture give incentives. What’s the excuse?  Because of these lawsuits, prices for these machines go up.

Off-roading is not just about riding; it’s about a gathering of friends and family enjoying the outdoors, enjoying each other and often a great learning experience. The off-roader can drive miles and miles into the wilderness (and desert) to have the comfort of privacy and freedom, away from the hustle. When riding you have the feeling of freedom--no paved road, no street signs, no buildings, an adventure seeing and reaching places you would never see if you walked or drove a car.  I often think it’s sad (because of ignorant people) that off-road vehicles are not street legal and cannot drive on other dirt roads usually designated for registered street legal riding.  If they could drive and ride respectfully, why not?  

On most any given weekend, during riding season October to April, you can find hundreds of thousands of riders. I remember one weekend at Glamas with over 250,000 riders. If you don’t believe that, check out area web sites, Google, Facebook, riding clubs, Bureau of Land Management, State Parks, etc.

Learn and know what you’re doing before you get on that machine. For what it’s worth, each machine, whether two, three, or four wheeler, side by side, handles differently (common sense--RIGHT).  Don’t spoil it for others, because you’re too smart to learn a little more. I’m sure you spent some time comparing prices before you bought it; why not spend time learning how to ride it?  For every lawsuit, for every new law imposed, it costs us the consumer more money, more money, whether it’s on the stick price, or rescuing you.

As far as the environment goes, if we all tread lightly including the walkers, the talkers, the machines, and the animals, I believe managing the environment would become much easier. TRAVEL, RESPECT, EDUCATE, ALLOW and DISCOVER our land.

The opinions in this article reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, please contact