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Plan to ride an OHV in Utah? You may need to take an educational course first

Mike Thomas, an off-highway vehicle program volunteer specialist, straps on a helmet before riding an ATV on July 20, 2017. A new law requires adults to take a free online safety course before they can ride most off-highway vehicles on public lands.

Mike Thomas, an off-highway vehicle program volunteer specialist, straps on a helmet before riding an ATV on July 20, 2017. A new law requires adults to take a free online safety course before they can ride most off-highway vehicles on public lands. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Riding off-highway vehicles is a popular activity in Utah, but anyone 18 and older will now need to complete an online educational course before they can ride most off-highway vehicles on state public lands.

The free educational course is required for adults who plan to operate Type I all-terrain vehicles, which are ATVs that have three or more wheels with handlebars that are designed to be straddled. It's also required for side-by-side vehicles, Type III off-highway vehicles like modified jeeps or "rock crawlers" and off-highway motorcycles, according to the Utah Division of Outdoor Recreation.

Once complete, the course certificate is valid for the remainder of the rider's life. The course is not required for snowmobiles, as well as for participants of guided tours, implements of husbandry and sanctioned OHV events. It's also not required for any all-terrain vehicle that's registered as a standard road vehicle (with full-sized license plates), officials add.

Anyone under the age of 18 must still have a youth OHV education certificate to operate an off-highway vehicle on any public lands, roads or trails, which was the case prior to this year. The youth course costs $35.

"Our goal is to increase overall awareness and education of Utah's OHV laws and rules to help increase overall rider safety and responsible recreation," Chase Pili, OHV program manager for the Utah Division of Outdoor Recreation, said in a statement.

The course is the result of a bill the Utah Legislature passed last year. Rep. Carl Albrecht, R-Richfield, the bill's primary sponsor, explained back in February 2022 that he crafted the legislation after listening to concerns brought to him by members of off-highway vehicle groups regarding how some people misused trails in recent years.

The COVID-19 pandemic led many to flock to the state and its national parks, and it also caused a surge in other outdoor activities, including OHV riding. The problem, Albrecht said, was that there were many first-time riders and others who didn't follow the law, which led to worries regarding impacts on Utah's natural resources.

He argued that the course could help educate riders on how to properly ride vehicles on public and private lands.

"This is a user group-generated bill and it shows just how serious any of us who enjoy four-wheeling are about protecting our lands and protecting our OHV trails," he said when introducing the bill last year. "We don't want to lose our public land or private land trails in rural Utah ... but we need a prescription on how to deal with these folks."

Utah Division of Outdoor Recreation officials say the course contains 26 questions and education videos covering a swath of topics, including basic safety, legal guidance about riding on public lands and conservation practices like packing out waste. Officials contend that the course takes less than 30 minutes to complete.

The course was developed by members of the many OHV groups in the state, as well as other groups like Grand County and the Utah-based recreation stewardship nonprofit T.R.E.A.D Lightly.

"We believe the new OHV education course will benefit the entire OHV community from new riders to seasoned operators and the broader outdoor recreation community by promoting respectful, sustainable and on-trail OHV operation and respect for the communities affected by OHV operation," Pili said.

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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com. He previously worked for the Deseret News. He is a Utah transplant by the way of Rochester, New York.

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