Red River revisiting off-highway vehicle ordinance

Revised ordinance should allow side-by-side OHVs

Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) side-by-sides (Internet photo)
Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) side-by-sides (Internet photo)

The Town of Red River had hoped to have laws in place that would allow OHVs (Off Highway Vehicles) to access Forest Roads by driving on town streets. Instead the town voted to repeal the law at its Tuesday (June 21) council meeting. A new law will likely allow the use of side-by-sides (e.g. RZR Side by Sides, Kawasaki Mules, etc.).

Red River’s town council passed the ordinance May 24 after a public meeting revealed overwhelming public support. Although OHVs would have been barred from Main Street, the ordinance made allowances for the need to cross State Highway 38 and use State Highway 578 to access the Old Red River Pass and Goose Creek. Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe also hoped the state would approve use of 578 to the end of the road in the Upper Red River Valley.

“We had to have that passed before we could approach the DOT (Department of Transportation),” Town Marshal David Smith told The Chronicle.

ATV Trips_DonFink002
ATVs are not safe for highway use, according to manufacturers. (Chronicle file photo)

During the Transportation Commission meeting, Smith told The Chronicle it was revealed that, “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. They are rewriting their rules to prohibit ATVs will not be allowed on state highways.”Instead the meeting revealed problems, Smith said, most notably that, while some OHVs are safe for highway use, All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) can be unstable and hard to control, particularly at high speeds. The ATV Safety Institute advises riders, “Never ride on paved roads…. ATVs are designed to be operated off-highway.”

Smith told the town council, the commission faced a difficult choice: They could restrict speed limits for ATVs to 20 miles per hour — a dangerous choice since highway vehicles would be operating a higher speeds — or they could bar ATVs from highways and instead limit potential highway use to ROVs (Recreational Off-Highway Vehicles), which are also referred to as side-by-sides, Recreational Utility Vehicles (RUVs), or Utility Terrain Vehicles (UTVs).

“The greatest benefit to the safety of everyone involved is to allow OHVs like side-by-sides to do up to 45 miles per hour,” Smith said. “Then traffic vehicles will not be in danger because they will not have to slam on their breaks. They went with the option that was safest for the most people.”

Smith and town officials plan to rewrite the town ordinance and hold a public hearing during the July council meeting.

Although the town could still allow ATVs on town streets (with the exception of State Highways), Smith said it would be too complicated to limit ATVs to some streets while allowing OHV side-by-sides on all of them, including Highways 38 and 578, where applicable.

“Yeah, it will upset the ATV users,” Smith said. “They’ll be as mad as a midget with a yoyo but you don’t see as many ATVs anymore.”

Smith expects the Transportation Commission to support town efforts and noted, “Every indication is they’re 100 percent behind us using Highway 578 all the way to the end of the roadway.”

According to Smith, there is also a potential for use on Highway 38 to Forest Service campgrounds in the Red River to Questa Canyon. A potential hurdle for use on both highways is the 50 mph to 55 mph speed zones.


  1. I don’t mind side-by-side vehicles or atvs on public streets, as long as they are subject to the same insurance requirements as other drivers. What if they injure a pedestrian, damage someone’s vehicle, or cause a serious accident?

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