• 90°

ATVs: off-roading vehicles cause damage and danger

By: Shayla Terry

Nothing beats enjoying the summer sun like hightailing on an all-terrain vehicle (ATV), but even that should be taken with caution. Though a good time, ATVs can be dangerous.

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that from 1982-2012 Alabama had 297 ATV related accidents. ATVs are off-roading vehicles. They should not be driven on paved roads or dirt roads.

“We don’t specifically look for people who are not doing the right thing,” Crenshaw County sheriff Mickey Powell said. “We receive calls about people being out, tearing up the dirt roads on the ATVs, then we’ll really start looking for them.”

Dirt roads fall under the same driving rules and procedures as paved roads. In the case that they are ruined in any way, the county will have to pay for repairs.

“It costs the county a lot of money to go back and fix the damage to dirt roads that people cause by riding ATVs,” Powell said. “It may be seen as having a good time, but it costs the tax payers a lot of money.”

Powell warns that people caught riding on dirt roads with the off-roading vehicle will receive the same consequences as they would if caught on a paved road.

“If you get caught, it’s automatically a reckless driving citation,” he said. “If we catch you tearing up the roads, we are going to tow your vehicle and you will also be written a citation.”

Reckless driving is a misdemeanor in Alabama. If caught for the first time, drivers could get five to 90 days of jail time, and/or $25 to $500 in fines. Repeat offenders could receive 10 to six months jail time, and/or $50 to $500 in fines. Getting caught obstructing roads can also carry another charge.

“If it goes as far as intentionally causing damage to roads, this can go under a criminal charge,” Powell said. “In that instance, we would contact our county engineer, Benjamin Sanders, and see what the costs will be to repair the roads, and you will be charged with criminal mischief.”

Second and third degree criminal mischief are misdemeanors in Alabama, while first degree criminal mischief is a felony. A conviction of criminal mischief can come with jail time, as well as fine of up to $15,000.

“The speed limit on dirt roads is 35 mph,” Powell said. “We are getting  complaints of speeders on automobiles. You can get a speeding ticket on a dirt road.”

Powell says that ATV riders should be cautious of this because if  the speeding automobiles collide with the off-roading vehicle, the outcome could cause serious injuries or fatalities.

“All dirt roads don’t have the shoulders that the paved roads have,” he said. “You also don’t have the visibility on dirt roads around curves that you would have on paved road. If automobiles are speeding and ATV riders come around a curve and hit them, it’s a bad outcome. Usually ATV riders don’t have on helmets, and they’re the ones who end up with serious injuries.”

Powell says that in ATV accidents on dirt roads, all rules of the highway still apply and someone will be at fault.

“There has been some serious accidents on dirt roads,” he said. “We don’t want that here. We want everyone to abide by the laws and stay safe.”