4-wheeler activity a growing concern

Published 7:52 pm Thursday, June 4, 2009

People rely on four-wheelers for many reasons–transportation, hauling, recreation–but if not used correctly, they can create problems and hazards.

County and city law enforcement alike receive numerous complaints each week concerning all-terrain vehicles.

Four-wheelers are not street legal.

“They’re not made to be driven on the public roadway,” Clanton police chief Brian Stilwell said.

Four-wheelers typically lack a long list of features needed to be street legal, such as a tag, taillights and turn signals, among others.

“There’s many violations, there’s not just a simple law that says, ‘No four-wheelers,'” Chilton County Sheriff Kevin Davis said.

Davis said the complaints he receives are not simply about people driving four-wheelers on public roads but the manner in which they drive.

The most common complaints are people driving at high speeds, with no protective gear, having too many people on a vehicle, tearing up roadways, or drivers who are too young to even have a motor vehicle license operating four-wheelers on public roads.

Todd Workman of Performance Powersports said people buying four-wheelers often do not take regulation enforcement seriously.

“It depends on the county,” Workman said. “Most people view it as “They ain’t gonna mess with me.'”

“It’s hard for us to chase them down in a patrol car,” Davis said.

Davis and Stilwell said many times four-wheeler operators will run from officers, escaping into areas where patrol cars cannot follow. Four-wheelers also have no identification, making it difficult to track down the owner.

Though public roads are off limits for four-wheelers, places such as Minooka Park provide good alternatives.

“There’s adequate places to ride,” Stilwell said. “The county has built an ATV park in the north of the county for them to ride.”

Along with the park, four-wheeler operators can also take advantage of free training courses held statewide, including ones in Montevallo and Prattville.

Derek Catrett, sales manager at Action Motor Sports, said the courses are held in conjunction with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and all customers purchasing a four-wheeler are encouraged to attend.

Catrett said many people are reluctant to participate in the course, but are more willing when they find out the four-wheeler manufacturer will pay them $100 to take the course.

“Most customers actually really enjoy it,” Catrett said.

Catrett said all well-known manufacturers require the dealer to provide the consumer with a DVD detailing four-wheeler protection and dangerous situations that can occur.

Buyers must also sign a liability form, including a section called “the nevers,” which describe the restrictions and regulations imposed on four-wheelers, such as “never” ride on a public road, and “never” drink and drive.

Catrett said the biggest complaint they receive is about the “don’t-drink-and-drive-your-ATV” clause, at which he said people chuckle. The salesman then reminds them if they don’t agree, they cannot purchase the vehicle.

Catrett said Action Motor Sports offers full protective gear, but people normally don’t purchase it when they buy a four-wheeler.

“We’re pretty lucky if we get a helmet and goggles out of the deal,” Catrett said.

Workman also said customers do not seem interested in safety gear.

“We try to push helmets as a minimum,” Workman said. “I think it ought to be mandated law.”

Workman said, oftentimes, people do not realize how heavy and dangerous ATVs are.

“They don’t realize a standard ATV for a standard man weighs about four to five times the weight of the man,” Workman said.

Workman said some people buy the full-size four-wheelers for their children, which also creates a dangerous situation.