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Off-Road Vehicle Riders in the Right of Ways

   We have received numerous calls on the use of Off-Highway Vehicles (OHV) in the right of way of both county and township roads.  These calls started last fall just prior to freeze up and now have started again with the warmer weather.  We do not want to infringe on anyone legal rights or freedoms but what truly concerns us is threefold:

Reckless endangerment to themselves and others

Damage of public and private property

Blatant disregard to safe operation of their equipment

   Some of these riders have no fear of danger.  With multiple channels on TV to Social Media they see their so-called heroes do tricks and stunts successfully with minimal effort.  Little do they know or understand these heroes have coordinators, safety crews, repetitive practiced skills and closed courses.  Some see a road approach as a ramp, little do they think or even look to see if someone is coming up that road where their ramp is.  They travel at high rates of speed during daylight and darkness disregarding any oncoming or turning vehicles.

   As far as damages to property.  The right of ways and approaches are becoming rutted to the point where some of the adjacent land owners can no longer mow that section of right of way.  We want to bring to your attention two paragraphs of the century code.  They are cited at the top of the North Dakota Highway Patrol’s website under their Frequently Asked Questions.

39-29-09. Operation of off-highway vehicles. 1. An individual may not operate an off-highway vehicle on the roadway, shoulder, or inside bank or slope of any road, street, or highway except as provided in this chapter. Except in emergencies, an individual may not operate an off-highway vehicle within the right of way of any controlled-access highway. An individual may operate a registered off-highway vehicle on a gravel, dirt, or loose surface roadway. An individual may operate a registered off-highway vehicle on a paved highway designated and posted at a speed not exceeding fifty-five miles [88.51 kilometers] per hour. A licensed driver over sixteen years of age may operate a registered class III off-highway vehicle on a paved highway designated and posted at a speed not exceeding sixty-five miles [104.61 kilometers] per hour. An individual may not operate an off-highway vehicle on a paved highway if the vehicle is unable to attain a speed, on a paved level surface, of at least thirty miles [48.28 kilometers] per hour.

39-29-10. Operation by persons under age sixteen. Except as otherwise provided in this section, an individual under sixteen years of age who is not in possession of a valid operator's license or permit to operate an off-highway vehicle may not, except upon the lands of the individual's parent or guardian or as a participant in an organized sporting event that involves the use of off-highway vehicles, operate an off-highway vehicle. An individual at least twelve years of age may operate an off-highway vehicle if the individual has completed an off-highway vehicle safety training course prescribed by the director of the parks and recreation department and has received the appropriate off-highway vehicle safety certificate issued by the director of the department of transportation. The failure of an operator to exhibit an off-highway vehicle safety certificate on demand to any official authorized to enforce this chapter is presumptive evidence that that person does not hold a certificate. Fees collected from each individual receiving certification must be deposited in the off-highway vehicle trail tax fund for off-highway vehicle safety education and training programs.

   Safe equipment operation and operators.  In Burleigh County we have an OHV track at the Missouri Valley Complex but in reviewing their Master Plan from 2017 it looks like nothing has been done to promote or utilize this location.  Throughout Gibbs Township we are crisscrossed with North Dakota Snowmobile Trails advertised by the North Dakota Department of Tourism and maintained by the Rough Rider Snowmobile Club from Bismarck.  This section of the greater North Dakota trails is called the Missouri Valley Trail, in season it is marked and groomed as needed with appropriate signage for safe operation.  The trail follows county roads, namely 80th St NE and 71st Ave NE.  We all have received phone calls and witnessed dangerous operators under this program too, but not to the extent of some operating OHVs.

In closing we are not looking for arrests or confiscations, but recommend increasing patrols in these areas sometime shortly after school’s release until dinner time as that seems to be the period for most of the activity occurs.  Not all are riding irresponsibility, and with everything else a few bad apples ruin the barrel.  We know our Deputies will dole out any citations to the extent they deem fit. 

We hope and pray that nothing happens to any of these riders and that they learn to ride safely through education and practice in an approved location. 

In doing research for this letter, we found two North Dakota reports covering Child Fatalities.  In 2006, 27 children died in vehicle related deaths, 7.4% were OHV accidents.  There were 22 vehicular child fatalities in 2015 and 2016; 12 in 2015 and 10 in 2016; 2 each year were OHV related at 18%.  Let us hope this upward trend does not continue.

Gibbs Township Supervisors