Tuesday, March 28, 2023

'You gotta protect your noggin.'

by By Caleb Perez/Special to the Columbia Basin Herald
| March 8, 2023 1:30 AM

MOSES LAKE — With warm weather getting closer, it’s about that time of year to break out outdoor toys and enjoy the sunshine. It is also important to remember to be safe while out riding on ATVs and off-road vehicles, whether that’s in the sand dunes near Moses Lake or other locations.

Grant County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jesse King, who oversees ORV safety programs for the department, said there are laws and safety steps things to keep in mind when out riding. While he said that he has not seen too many issues with people out in the dunes he emphasized that it is important to follow the laws.

“One of the biggest things is no alcohol out (at the dunes),” said King. “There were a lot of collisions and deaths that occurred out there because of that.”

Equipment is another important aspect of riding out there that he said. Helmets, flags and registration are all required by law while using an ATV. Wearing a helmet is one of the most important safety steps, King said.

“You gotta protect your noggin,” he said.

Flags help riders see each other coming over the dunes. Flags must be 108 inches off the ground and must be either red or orange in color to help with visibility.

“Another big thing is road use. We have an actual county roadway that goes through the sand dunes. You can’t be on the county roadway in an off-road vehicle,” King said. “If it’s licensed for the road, you’re ok, but if it’s a side-by-side that’s not licensed for the road, dirt bike, quad, or even a truck that’s not registered for the roadway, you can’t be on the road.”

King said new signage has been installed to show where unauthorized vehicles aren’t permitted near the beach at the dunes. The signs are in place to prevent beachgoers from getting sand sprayed onto them.

GCSO also looks for spark arrests and mufflers. Riders have to have some kind of muffling device due to noise pollution, King said. Muffling systems must be 105 decibels or less at 20 feet. Spark arrestors stop sparks from the engine coming out of the tailpipe, preventing wildfires in greener areas of the sand dunes.

King also reminds riders make sure their headlights and tail lights are working especially when riding between dusk and dawn.

“We try to take reason in it, but if it’s dark enough that I can’t see you then you need a light on,” King said.

GCSO will also be looking for the burning of pallets or any kind of wood that has nails in them due to offroad use resulting in ruined tires, King said. The resulting debris causes risk of injury for drivers and others at the facility. Discharging fire arms is also forbidden in a large portion of the dunes.

Rick Archer president of the Sand Scorpions ORV/ATV enthusiast group said there are ways that hobbyists should look at being responsible at the dunes and other areas. According to Rich Archer, president of the Sand Scorpions, it is important to be aware of your surroundings and always look ahead when you are driving.

“Don’t drive above your abilities,” said Brandon Douglass, a member of the Sand Scorpions . “With these fancy UTVs or side-by-sides, anybody can jump in one and go way too fast, and when you’re not experienced, you get out of control fast and that can end in a serious accident and or injury – sometimes worse.”

Douglas said to use a buddy system, especially when off-roading at night, and to keep a phone handy in case of emergency.

Douglas also made a point to remind people to be respectful of others and not driving as if noone else is around. This means throwing away trash and litter and driving slowly through camping areas.

GCSO recently reported instances of trash being dumped at the dunes, rather than being disposed of properly.

Both Archer and Douglas reiterated many of the laws and requirements, such as having working headlights and brake lights and having a flag on your vehicle, are essential for safety. Archer was adamant that riders wear helmets. He noted that he has seen many broken helmets out at the dunes and that it was lucky that it wasn’t the riders’ heads that had been broken.

For those getting excited to break out their ATVs and ORVs the Sand Scorpions also host several free events to participate in. This includes the Sand Drags on March 25 and an Easter Egg Hunt coming up in April. All upcoming events can be found on their official Facebook page at https://bit.ly/SNDSCRPNS.

If there are any questions the Sheriff’s office provides pamphlets on the safety and laws for offroad riding. The Sand Scorpions are also available as a resource for any questions about ATVs and ORVs.

“Any time you’re looking for help you can always look to the Sand Scorpions,” Archer said.

Caleb Perez is a freelance writer currently attending Big Bend Community College.



Rich Archer’s ATV the “Peny Archer.” Archer has his flags placed at the appropriate height so others can see him coming over the dunes, which also just happens to have them cut out of frame.



Don Grant, a regular competitor in the Sand Scorpions’ bounty hole event rides his way through the mud at one of the many events held for ATV/ORV enthusiasts.

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