For many, living in the country means wide-open spaces, freedom to roam and to pretty much do as you please. It has been a long-standing tradition in many areas to jump on your dirt bike, all-terrain vehicle or other off road vehicle and go for a ride. But in unincorporated Riverside County, it is important to know the rules regarding off road play.
An off-highway vehicle or OHV, is defined by the county as a motor vehicle designed to travel over any terrain, meaning a machine capable of cross-country travel “without benefit of a road or trail, on natural terrain.” This includes motorcycles, quads, ATVs, buggies and three-wheelers, plus 4x4s, jeeps, etc. OHVs must be registered, either as street legal with license plate and registration or as strictly off road, with the off-highway vehicle sticker. Both registrations are handled by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and the laws regarding them dictated by the California Vehicle Code.
Riverside County Ordinance 529 outlines some basic rules governing off road vehicle use. Riders must have written permission to ride on private or public property. The Ordinance exempts certain vehicles like golf carts, farm tractors and related machinery. Public and private off road “parks” or tracks such as Anza’s Cahuilla Creek Motocross track are also exempt from this requirement.
Ordinance 348.4213 goes into much more detail. No one should operate an off-road vehicle in such a way that disturbs the peace of their neighbors by dust, noise, smoke or fumes. All OHVs must have a legal muffler and spark arrestor as required by the California Vehicle Code. OHVs may not access highways unless they are street legal and these include county maintained dirt roads, side streets and even alleys.
Destruction of the environment is also a concern and has made it necessary to make restrictions to help prevent damage to habitats and fragile plants and wildlife. Creatures like the beloved desert tortoise is one of those affected by off road activity. Not everyone is aware of the small animals and laws needed to be developed to help ensure their safety and protect their habitat.
Regarding minors and off road fun, any person under the age of 18 must have taken a training course or be under the supervision of an adult with a training certificate. Children under 14 must be directly supervised by an adult.
Did you know that anyone that has had their California driver’s license revoked or suspended is not allowed to operate an OHV on any public lands? Or that helmets are required at all times? OHVs must all be equipped with a spark arrestor to prevent their exhaust from potentially causing wildfires. There are also noise limits that must be adhered to.
It is not OK to zoom all over the neighborhood, creating dust and noise. OHVs sometimes cause issues with hikers, equestrians, bicyclists and private property landowners. If you are being disturbed by illegal OHV activity, what can you do?
Riverside County Sheriffs Off-Highway Vehicle Enforcement Program (ROVE) can help. These law enforcement officers are specially trained in off road travel, laws and enforcement and are dedicated to educating the public in what they can and cannot do. About 100 deputy sheriffs countywide have successfully completed a certified law enforcement all-terrain vehicle course that combines skills, training and resources to enforce Riverside County OHV laws.
If you are experiencing illegal off road activity in your area, ROVE can help. They can be contacted by calling the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department non-emergency dispatch number at (951) 776-1099 or by filling out a form on the ROVE webpage at www.riversidesheriff.org/rove/.