Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Are you ATVing legally?

Quartzsite is an ATVers dream-come-true. Lots of open spaces, hills to climb, and beauty everywhere. But every year, some ATV visitors have run-ins with law enforcement, usually over something they didn't know about. Here's the run-down on local and state law as it applies to ATV use.

ATV Operational Law:

ATVs used on public roads (streets and highways) must be registered and insured. The latter can be a major headache for some, as not everybody's insurance company will provide coverage. What constitutes streets and highways? Some BLM and Forest Service roads constitute a public road. A rule of thumb is, if a passenger car can run on it, your ATV should be registered and insured to be there, and you should have a valid operator's license.

Drivers must obey all traffic laws.

Those with Arizona driver licenses must have an "M" endorsement to operate a 3-wheeler, and for four-wheelers, a simple "D" or regular driver license is required. However, to obtain a "D" license, you'll have to 18-years or older. Out of state license holders need a motorcycle endorsement to operate a three-wheeler.

Anyone under 18 must where a helmet while on an ATV; EVERYONE on an ATV must where eye protection.

Passengers can be carried on an ATV ONLY if the rig is manufacturer-designed for passengers.

Operating an ATV while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal ANYWHERE in Arizona. You can be cited/arrested even on a back country trail for violation of the law.

Each agency that manages public land has its own rules, regulations and laws to enforce. Rules and laws change. Before using public lands, you're wise to check with the local land management agency office about rules and requirements. Keep current about changes in OHV regulations.

Most areas restrict OHV use to established roads and trails. Some areas have seasonal closures because of wet roads or wildlife breeding or nesting areas.

Getting an ATV registered in Arizona requires this equipment:

A minimum or one hand or foot operated brake.

A brake light.

A minimum of two headlights which must shine at least 500 feet forward.

At least one tail light visible a minimum of 500 feet to the rear.

A rear mounted license plate, which must be illuminated.

A horn audible to a minimum of 200 feet.

A continuously operating muffler in good working order. Cutouts and bypasses are illegal.

A rear view mirror.

Seat and footrests for the operator.

A cap on the fuel tank.

Be aware: The "Off-Road" plate on your ATV is only an indication that the ATV has been titled in the State of Arizona. It is NOT a registration plate and does not allow you to ride on roads that require your vehicle to be registered.

Want to Learn More?

The ATV RiderCourse
Developed by the ATV Safety Institute, the ATV RiderCourse provides hands-on training in the basic techniques for riding an all-terrain vehicle. The course also covers protective gear, local laws, finding places to ride, and environmental concerns. If you bought your ATV after December 30,1986, you may be eligible for free training. Those not eligible for the free training may take the course for a small fee. The ATV RiderCourse is available nationwide. To sign up call: 1-800-887-2887

Off-Highway Motorcycle Training
T.E.A.M. Arizona (480) 998-9888
T.E.A.M. Arizona conducts basic rider training for dirt bikes.

Four-Wheel Drive
Arizona State Association of Four-Wheel Drive Clubs (602)-258-4BY4
The ASA4WDC sponsors safety clinics that teach the basics of 4WD.

photo: alfonso beneyas on

Quartzsite LTVAs established for RV boondockers

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) would like you to come visit them in the desert this winter, to see just how pleasant the Southwest can be when the rest of the nation is shivering.

The Arizona Sonora Desert, as well as Southeastern California's Mojave Desert, are among the most popular winter destinations for RVers from the Western and mid-Western states, with the Coachella Valley area (Palm Springs) in California and Arizona's Yuma, Tucson, and the greater Phoenix area among the most popular.

For boondockers, however, Quartzsite, Arizona is the reigning king of boondocking and a "must see" for RVers at least once before hanging up their wheels. You can visit Quartzsite and stay at one of the town's hook-up campgrounds, but to really get the flavor of the place, head to one of the BLM's Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVA) instead--established especially for boondocking RVers.

The BLM has authorized LTVAs as designated camping areas for seasonal visitors with rates of $180 for the entire season of September 15 through April 15, with the added perk that you can move around between LTVAs for the one seasonal fee. This is a great deal for new visitors to the desert who do not want to stay in one place but would rather see other parts of the desert as well. You can also buy a 14 day permits for $40 if you do not intend to stay for the season.

The LTVAs offer no hookups, but do have onsite trash containers, a water station, camp host, ranger patrols, central restroom area, and dump station. It is a good way to learn and practice boondocking, since the services you normally need are nearby. You will also find that LTVAs are near enough to supply centers--groceries, restaurants, RV repair, etc.--to make life easy.

There will be plenty of experienced boondockers around you also to help out if you have problems or questions. And as you know, RVers are quick and eager to offer advice and help when you need it. You might even end up invited to a potluck, music jam session, or campfire gathering of RVers--especially at one of the Quartzsite LTVAs where more than half a million RVers pass through during the winter.

So looking at the bottom line, if you decide to stay at an LTVA for the season instead of at a medium to hi-line RV resort, you could save enough in camping fees in one season to pay for a roof full of solar panels, a Blue Boy portable waste tank, and a water bladder--three of the serious boondocker's additions to his rig--and by the end of the season you would be a member of the boondocker's fraternity. And that's a pretty neat--and independent--place to be.