Without visible identification, off-road vehicle riders continue to violate the law with impunity
Almost every weekend in the spring and fall and especially during holidays, rural communities in the
southern California desert are invaded by off-road vehicles (ORV) who use our neighborhoods as playgrounds and cause widespread damage to public lands, wilderness areas, critical habitat for endangered species and other landsoff-limits to all vehicles. Any attempt to report this illegal activity is hampered by the fact that these trespassers demonstrate no respect for private property or the law, are difficult for law enforcement to apprehend and, without visible identification, are virtually impossible to report.
Off-road vehicles in California are not required to display any visible identification. The only information
that could possibly link the vehicle to the rider is on a small sticker obscured behind or below the driver. Private property owners have no recourse from the onslaught of illegal and irresponsible ORV abuse. Riders violate the law without consequences, and law enforcement is frustrated in any attempt to apprehend them. On ORV web sites and blogs, riders boast that they are impervious to the law due to their anonymity. Imagine if automobiles on our nation’s highways did not have to display visible identification. How would you report a hit-and-run incident or an intoxicated, reckless or speeding driver? Why should ORVs be any different than automobiles in displaying identification?
According to a recent report by Responsible Trails America (RTA), a non-profit organization that supports common-sense off-road vehicle enforcement and management policies, other states are taking the lead on requiring visible identification.
The report (found on www.responsibletrails.org), explains that twelve states require large, visible
identification in the form of a license plate or decal, and more states are joining the effort. The initiative helps to weed out the renegade riders and help protect opportunities for those who follow the law. Visible identification gives law enforcement the tools they have asked for in order to respond to illegal activity. The rules regarding ORV identification are different from state to state resulting in a confusing patchwork of regulations. Some states require visible identification, registration and decals while others have no title, visible identification or registration requirements at all.
The current situation is unacceptable, but there are remedies. The state of California, through the Off-
Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division, needs to mandate that the green stickers be visibly displayed. We invite ORV organizations in California to join in our efforts to support legislation requiring visible license plates. This is an important way that the Blue Ribbon Coalition, American Motorcycle Association, California Off-Road Vehicle Association, Off-Road Business Association and other ORV special interest groups can exhibit their often stated goal of encouraging legal and responsible behavior. Riders can encourage others to respect the rights of private property owners and businesses by policing themselves through “peer reporting”. Advocacy for visible license plates would prove that the ORV industry and user groups are serious about reining in those who give the sport such a bad reputation.
Contact us if you are interested in supporting efforts to make riders more identifiable and therefore more responsible. We invite vendors and user groups to work with us on an ad campaign that encourages responsible recreation through education and accountability.