LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — U.S. Forest Service officials are considering altering forest roads in Idaho for safety reasons following a 2009 decision by Idaho lawmakers that opened the roads to drivers younger than 16 operating off-highway vehicles without a state-issued driver's license.
"While responsible OHV (off-highway vehicle) recreation is welcome on national forest system roads, safe operation of motor vehicles on national forest roads is compromised because unlicensed and untrained drivers are now sharing roads designed and maintained for passenger cars and commercial truck traffic," said Harv Forsgren, regional forester of the Intermountain Region based in Ogden, Utah.
The agency said more than 2,500 miles of roads Forest Service roads in Idaho are "roads of concern" that could be dangerous for unlicensed drivers. The Forest Service is taking public comments through Feb. 22 about roads in the eight national forests in the state.
After reviewing comments, the agency said it will consider actions that could include reducing speed limits, removing brush for better visibility, adding speed bumps, and putting in warning signs.
The agency said some roads could be closed to off-road vehicle use.
"In cases where risks are unacceptable, OHV use may be restricted," Forsgren said. "However, for each road of concern, restricting OHV use will be considered as a last resort when no other reasonable and effective safety measures can be implemented."
Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, sponsored the 2009 law that was aimed at changing registration and insurance for off-road vehicles. But a clause allowed drivers younger than 16 to ride off-highway vehicles without a driver's license on federal or state land where the road is not part of the state or local highway system. The young drivers must be supervised by a licensed adult.
Andy Brunelle, a Forest Service spokesman, said the agency can only close roads to specific types of vehicles, not just to young drivers.