BOISE – Two years ago, Idaho legislators decided to let anyone younger than 16 operate an off-highway vehicle, ATV or motorbike on national forest roads without a driver’s license. Now, the Forest Service is reviewing safety issues on those roads in light of the change.
“Previously, Idaho law prohibited use of OHVs by unlicensed riders on roads open to passenger vehicle traffic,” said Intermountain Regional Forester Harv Forsgren. “While responsible OHV recreation is welcome on National Forest System roads, safe operation of motor vehicles on National Forest roads is compromised because unlicensed and untrained drivers are now sharing roads designed and maintained for passenger cars and commercial truck traffic.”
The Forest Service is taking public comments through Feb. 22 on concerns about specific stretches of road in the eight national forests in the state, which contain more than 7,700 miles of roads open to both off-road vehicles and highway vehicles. Possible safety moves include reducing speed limits, removing brush for improved visibility, warning signs, speed bumps or, as a last resort, banning off-road vehicle use.
The 2009 law, sponsored by Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, was mainly aimed at changing registration and insurance requirements for off-road vehicles, but it also included a clause allowing those younger than 16 to ride the vehicles without a driver’s license on federal or state land where the road is not part of the state or local highway system, when the youngster is supervised by a licensed adult operator.