- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 6, 2017


Several weeks back, a pack of ATV riders roared across a median in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol as if they were in the rural, dusty fields of Kansas.

In late June, scores of ATV riders scooted and screeched around the busy streets of National Harbor along the shores of the Potomac River as if they had been beckoned to pay homage to America’s wounded warriors.

This has been a regional problem for years, and the 2015 incident in which bikers rode the wrong way on Key Bridge across the Potomac River was only the beginning of the recent cycle.

Parents, pay attention: Your child, your relative’s child, your neighbor or neighbor’s child is breaking the law.

They also are risking life and limb driving an all-terrain vehicle along urban streets and state and federal roadways.

ATVs, dirt bikes and utility-task vehicles (UTVs) are not safe when the drivers attempt to dip in and out of groups of pedestrians and around vehicular traffic, and driving and performing wheelies along the way.

And, unfortunately, they aren’t always safe when the riders are on sprawling farmland either.

Legendary NFL quarterback Brett Favre discovered as much the hard way. In 2004 his wife, Deanna, lost her brother Casey Tynes in a fatal ATV accident on the Favre family farm in Mississippi. Tynes was 24 years old.

In February, Britney Spears’ 8-year-old niece, Maddie Briann Aldridge, was operating an ATV when it flipped into a pond near her family’s property. Rescuers found Maddie submerged and tangled in the ATV’s netting. Once brought to dry land, Maddie wasn’t conscious or breathing, so rescuers had to perform CPR, and she later had to be ventilated. She has since fully recovered.

By the grace of God, there have been no recent losses of life or near-drownings in and around the D.C. region because of “ATV riders gone wild.”

One reason could be attributed to local policies, which forbid officers from chasing ATV, UTV and dirt bike riders. The logic behind such enforcement is to avoid a vehicular chase that further puts pedestrians and motorists in harm’s way. Understandable — kind of.

Video cameras that have captured many of the ATV offenders are being broadcast and posted online, and that’s a good thing.

What’s also helpful are seemingly encouraging words from D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Prince George’s County Police officials — words that appeal to family, friends and neighbors alike to, well, snitch on the unlawful joy riders.

“If you see your kid — who is generally a good kid — on television, you don’t want your kid to get into trouble,” the mayor said at a recent press conference. “If you know that dirt bike is in your shed or stored in your yard, or if you are a gas station owner allowing big groups of people to fuel up at your gas station, you need to report them.”

Said Deputy Police Chief Chris Murtha: “We need the public’s help to tell us who is riding these bikes.”

Snitching is an unspoken no-no in many communities. The threatening roar of gangs of ATVs, UTVs and dirt bikers is terrifying, and worthy of new strategy when it comes to lawlessness.

Politicians aren’t keen on appealing to parents. Their usual MO is to offer a government solution that appears to curb the problem.

When it comes to ATV joyriding, though, government authorities already know the writing is on the wall.

See, many of the illegal ATVs have been stolen from individuals and businesses, and government authorities know what’s going to happen if a businessman, security guard or individual is ripped off and they have a gun.

Parents know whether they bought their child an off-road vehicle, and they know Miss Bowser and Deputy Chief Murtha can see what’s going on without even viewing the video.

The bottom line, indeed, is better safe than sorry.

Besides, you never know when road rage is going to rear its own thunderous clap amid scores of ATV riders gone wild.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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