How Off-Road Safe Are You? TPWD Patrolling for ATV Safety

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With warmer temperatures approaching, Texas Parks & Wildlife is gearing up to educate the public during the seasonal increase in off-highway vehicle use.

Sunday, Game Wardens headed to Buffalo Springs Lake, one of the area’s most popular off-roading sites, to start patrolling for vehicle safety.

The wardens approached riders in ATV’s and UTV’s checking to see if they were abiding by the law.  The wardens checked in with Janie Gamboa of Plainview who was visiting Buffalo Springs with her family. The game warden’s applauded Gamboa, all of her equipment and preparations were safe and legal.  Though other ATV riders in the area that day weren’t as prepared.

“We’ve been doing this for a long time, my parents they taught us all the safety equipment and the hazards,” Gamboa explained.

Gamboa made sure her whole family was equipped with helmets and that her vehicle decals were current.  During her time riding the ATV she said that safety precautions can help protect against other unsafe ATV riders.

“Be careful with others, there’s lots of people out there,” Gamboa advised. ” Go slow, not fast, don’t gun it.”

Gamboa and her family weren’t the only ones enjoying the trails, springtime tends to bring high numbers of off-road vehicles to Buffalo Springs.

“In spring time it really picks up, thats why were trying to start off strong, let them know we’re out here and also that the number one goal is that everyone has a fun, safe time out there,” said Aaron Sims, Public Information Officer for Texas Parks & Wildlife.

Sims was one of the officers helping out on the trails, he explained that many people the wardens encounter on their patrols aren’t aware of all of the legal and safety requirements which come with operation their offroad vehicles.

“The main things we’re looking for are: head protection– which would be helmets– eye protection which could be sun glasses or anything that cover your eyes, and that OHV decal ,” he said.

The OHV (off highway vehicle) decal is a $16 decal which riders have to obtain each year to run their vehicles on off-roading trails.  It is illegal to operate an ATV without the decal, you can purchase OHV decalsTPWD Lubbock District Office located at 1702 Landmark Lane, in Lubbock (806-761-4930).

Game Wardens also patrol for people who are riding ATV’s under the legal age limit.  People under the age of 14 are not allowed to drive ATV’s without the direct supervision of a parent or guardian.

Sims said that a supervised juvenile was injured in a crash at Buffalo Springs this past weekend.

“The past couple of years we’ve had some very serious accidents here at Buffalo Springs and in one incident, they fell down a cliff and that one individual luckily had their helmet on because otherwise it could have been worse,” Sims explained. 

He added that TPWD encourages the public to complete their required ATV safety course before getting on the roads. He added that the course will give riders a better sense of how they handle their vehicle before they hit the trails by themselves.

During ATV season, wardens will also be on the lookout for other legal and environmental infractions. 

“When we’re up there of course our main goal is to enforce safety compliance but we’re also state police officers and we’re game wardens, so if we see any other state violations we’ll address them as well,” Sims explained. “It could unfortunately be drugs, it could be alcohol related, it also could be damage to the environment, so if we have people dumping oil up there or dumping illegal substances on top of the ground we’ll take care of that from an environmental perspective too.”

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