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New rules for off-roaders will begin New Year's Day

Off-highway vehicle enthusiasts will see new seat belt and helmet rules begin New Year's Day for riders under age 16 in most off-road vehicles.

The rules are similar to the current rules that require restraints in vehicles while on roads and highways, according to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

The new rules will require proper restraints for those under age 16 while riding Class I or Class II vehicles.

Class II vehicles include pickup trucks, Jeeps and other sports-utility vehicles, and side-by-side all-terrain vehicles used for off-road driving.

Class I vehicles include youth-sized and side-by-side ATVs that weigh 800 pounds or less and have seat belts.

The only exemptions are for Class I four-wheel quads and three-wheelers, provided they weigh less than 800 pounds.

Also going into effect Jan. 1 is a new helmet restriction that requires youths under 18 years old to wear fastened helmets approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation while riding any class of off-highway vehicle not registered by the state Driver and Motor Vehicle Services department.

Anyone riding in a registered, street-legal, Class II ATV that leaves the highway, however, is exempt.

The two changes were part of safety measures adopted earlier this year by the Oregon Legislature. The rules are spelled out in detail at the state parks Web site at www.oregonohv.org.

Anyone with questions about the changes can call the state's ATV hotline at 1-877-7SAFELY or e-mail questions to atv.info@state.or.us.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Outdoors Program will host what the agency has billed as a family-oriented rabbit hunting clinic and a pheasant hunt for women and kids in upcoming months.

The events, scheduled for January and February, are designed for beginners, and each starts with a basic hunter-safety overview and a shotgun-skills clinic. Participants then go out into the field for a real hunt, accompanied by volunteer guides and their trained hunting dogs.

The so-called Family Small Game Clinic will be held Jan. 23 at the E.E. Wilson Wildlife Area near Corvallis. It is sponsored by ODFW and the Mary's Peak Hound Club.

The cost is $25 for adults, $40 for an adult and one child or $50 for one adult and two children.

The Becoming an Outdoors Woman pheasant hunt will be held Feb. 20 at Luckiamute Valley Pheasants near Dallas. It costs $40 per person.

The same club will hold a mentored-youth pheasant hunt Feb. 21, with a $40 charge for each adult/youth pair.

Participants must have a 2010 Oregon hunting license and appropriate tags.

Space is limited and preregistration is required. For more details, telephone Mark Newell at 503-947-6018 or send him an e-mail at mark.newell@state.or.us.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail mfreeman@mailtribune.com.