San Luis Obispo County

Santa Maria Aims to train Off-Highway Vehicle Drivers

Making the drive to the Oceano Dunes, many drivers would probably be pumping with adrenaline and excitement.

Kip Cooper an ATV instructor said "The dunes are an extremely fun place to be but only if you're doing it right."

The dunes can be unpredictable said Cooper, he said sometimes depending on the season you can see drops that are up to 10 stories tall.

Many people who come to companies to rent a off-highway vehicles, they get a list of safety rules.

The city of Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department, in partnership with the People for Leisure and Youth, and the Police Activities League, will submit a grant to the California State Parks, Off-Highway Motor Vehicle (OHV) Recreation Department for a new OHV safety program.

Dennis Smitherman, recreation supervisor with the Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department, said "People who buy a new vehicle are often offered free classes in safety training; but because we do have such a high volume of used vehicles sales, that are not always the case."

That is the reason Smitherman said the city would like to offer free hands-on training for OHV.

"The consumer product safety commission shows 2.5 percent increase in deaths because people aren't riding safe or ethical," said Smitherman.

Many remember Christopher Meadows 24-year-old paramedic and search and rescue volunteer who died while trying to help someone else at the Oceano Dunes.

Kip Cooper said   "Fairly soon we'll be doing tours of the dunes in honor of Christopher Meadows." 

Santa Maria parks and recreation hopes to make this new safety program a success.

"What we're trying to do is prevent accidents and prevent deaths and we do see one to two deaths a year we want to make that a zero number," said Smitherman.

The public is invited to attend a community meeting on Thursday, February 27, from 5:30 to 6:30, at the Abel Maldonado Community Youth Center, to share their thoughts and ideas on this program.

Questions may be directed to the Recreation and Parks Department, 924-0951 ext. 260. 

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