OHV Safety classes offer new skills

Whether it’s the cold breeze nipping at your face and the crunching of leaves under your tires as you ride your all-terrain vehicle (ATV) out to your favorite hunting spot on the opening day of elk season or twisting back on the throttle of a dirt bike as you catch some air over a hill, it is no question that an off-highway vehicle (OHV) can be a fun and very useful tool.

However, a hunting or camping trip can quickly be ruined by improper use of an OHV if safety rules are not followed.

As you’re reading this you may be saying to yourself, I already know how to ride an OHV and I ride safely. This may be true, but does the same go for your kids? Do they have the proper safety equipment? Are they riding an OHV that fits them properly?

Consider this fact: kids under 18 are required by law to obtain a safety certification to be able to ride.

At this point, you may now be wondering how to get your child certified. Or, perhaps you just purchased a new OHV and would like to learn how to ride it safely.

If either of those apply to you, then you’re in luck. The Department of Game and Fish is not only tasked with enforcing OHV laws, but also making sure people have the opportunities to get certified and know how to ride safely. To accomplish these goals, the Department offers classes taught by certified and experienced riders who will make sure you leave a class understanding how to keep yourself and young riders safe while operating one of these vehicles.

I recently attended one of the Department’s OHV safety classes in Las Vegas, N.M. as an instructor. Along with Department conservation officers with years of experience operating OHVs, we instructed six new youth riders. At the end of the class, all of the students received their certifications to operate OHVs legally in our state.

The class kicked off with an overview of laws, safety gear required and the controls and operation of an ATV. In no time, the kids headed outside to put this information to use with hands-on experience. They rode over obstacles, performed sharp turns on a course and learned how to navigate hills.

It’s hard to see smiles underneath a helmet as they hit the throttle around a turn, but I was pretty sure they were there that day. I spoke with Chris Johnson, the Department’s OHV education coordinator, who told me that the goal of OHV safety classes is making sure they are safe, educational most of all, fun.

Certainly, from what I saw, all of those points were hit that day and each kid was now more prepared to ride safely and enjoy riding an OHV.

For those interested in signing up for a class, the Department’s classes are held throughout the state in half-day formats and teach the basics of ATV or dirt bike handling and safety through actual riding on a course. All equipment, including ATVs and dirt bikes, are provided at no cost to use during the class. For more information and a schedule of upcoming classes, please visit www.wildlife.state.nm.us and look under the OHV tab, or go to www.b4uride.com.

About Cody Johnston

Cody Johnston is the Shooting Program Coordinator for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.