Governor signs law tweaking off-highway vehicle use on paved roads

Senate Bill 51, sponsored by state Senate Minority Caucus Chair Steve Neville (R – Aztec), allows OHVs to be used on paved roads — unless prohibited by local authorities. It also makes clarifications that include:

  • OHV operators who ride on paved roads must have valid driver’s licenses or permits and vehicle insurance, and they must observe speed limits and other requirements of motor vehicles under the state Motor Vehicle Code.
  • The vehicle must be equipped with legal headlights, taillights, mirrors and mufflers.
  • All operators must wear eye protection that complies with the act.
  • Operators younger than age 18 must wear an approved safety helmet that complies with the act.
  • OHVs that are driven on paved public roads also must have special license plates, which are issued by the Motor Vehicle Department for $7.

The new legislation takes effect July 1, 2017.

Last August, with guidance from the state Department of Transportation, Red River’s Town Council passed an ordinance allowing the use of OHVs inside town on Main Street (NM 38) between Caribel on the west side of town and Jayhawk Trail on the east side of town. The ordinance prohibits parking on Main Street in town.

Last year temporary signs were posted at both ends of town informing OHV drivers of the Main Street ban. Mayor Linda Calhoun told The Chronicle Tuesday (April 11), “I think the plan is to put up our own signs.”

In the original bill passed last year lawmakers had hoped to let communities decide whether ATVs (e.g., straddle-seat vehicles or handle bar driven vehicles) would be allowed but Smith told The Chronicle last summer, “Manufacturers did not like this law” because “ATVs were never meant to operate on highways, or at highway speeds. It’s a safety issue. ATVs are not made to be on highways. Period.”

Smith added while some OHVs are safe for highway use, All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) can be unstable and hard to control, particularly at higher speeds. The ATV Safety Institute advises riders, “Never ride on paved roads…. ATVs are designed to be operated off-highway.”

OHV Usage in Red River