TRENTON - The 300,000 New Jerseyans who drive off-road vehicles would face harsh penalties for riding them in state parks under a bill pushed forward yesterday by Assembly legislators.

The proposal was endorsed by environmentalists, who say the vehicles are destroying pristine areas and endangering park staff and visitors.

Off-road vehicle users say they are being targeted for the shoddy actions of a few. They also say the state should provide more areas where they can ride legally.

The bill would amend a 1973 law that imposes a maximum fine of $200 for taking off-road vehicles onto state land. The new law would allow authorities to impound the vehicle for at least 48 hours and to charge owners $500, plus towing and storage.

It also would permit authorities to impose a two-year driver's license suspension on anyone who operates an off-road vehicle in a state park.

- AP