ATVs: A nuisance or an asset?
Four-wheeler use is a constant in Mississippi, but they come into view a little easier when the leaves are falling and deer are on the run.
But whether they are a nuisance or an asset depends on who is using them and what they are being used for.
Law enforcement’s top concern is that ATVs are not driven on public roadways, which is state law. They are also keeping watch for those under 16 being in a helmet. They’ll also get involved when property damage surfaces or there’s a crash.
Standford Gandy, who lives in the Paris community, is no stranger to seeing property damage as a result of four-wheelers. The 74-year-old landowner has concerns with four-wheelers and their destruction of lives and property. He said there’s a large tract of acreage where folks come ride, and they often ride through private property to get there.
“I measured the other day and one rode 11 miles and the other rode 15 miles,” he said. “They rode on my land in three different places. They go up and down banks. It is a shame. They had tore the road up and were riding up and down the road.”
He said he plans to talk to the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors and the state attorney general’s office because he feels the sheriff’s office doesn’t put a stop to the trouble-making.
Gandy said often children are causing the property damage, doing tricks with the four-wheelers and tearing up roads and structures.
“They don’t give a damn because they live somewhere else,” he said.
He said another problem is adults, mainly those enjoying an adult beverage, or several.
“They buy it in town and drink it out here,” he said. “They ride at night, drink beer and shoot deer.”
He said he discovered a dead deer shot on his property this week, but he said the loss of life in the past years of adults and children crashing on four-wheelers in surrounding counties should be more than enough for law enforcement to get a handle on the riff-raff.
“This has been going on for years and years,” he said. “When is enough enough?”
Lafayette County Sheriff Buddy East said just about everybody is riding four-wheelers these days and often riders take liberties they shouldn’t.
“We don’t get as many calls as we used to,” he said of ATV destruction. “We have had them going out there and tearing up county roads, going out there and cutting up figure-eights and just tearing up the ditches. The county has to go back in there and straighten them up.”
East said the sheriff’s department will go off the main roads and patrol the more wooded areas when possible to keep an eye out for those who might be trespassing or causing damage. He said there is one particular case in the county that’s on their radar.
“They tore his property up and four-wheelers were cutting up the road. Whoever it does it, does it pretty regular,” East said. “So we really try to catch him. We go down there and sit and do roadblocks and go down there and hide. We just have to be lucky to have them come through. It’s not that we aren’t trying. We are. It’s just one of them things that you have to catch them.”
East said ATVs are a strictly off-road-terrain vehicle and people get hurt on them when not using them for the proper purpose and just using them as toys. But, he said they are effective when used properly.
“If they drive them like they’re supposed to and stay off the road and use them for trail bikes, go off in the woods, go to a deer stand on them, it’s not so bad. They have a purpose and it’s not for the road,” he said.
Josh Harris, a 37-year-old Oxford resident, has a purpose on his four-wheeler and has safety in mind since his 8-year-old son rides with him to and from their deer hunts.
“We’re not really recreational drivers — you know, out riding on the weekends,” he said. “We use ours to get us from Point A to Point B where normal vehicles couldn’t get us and we don’t want to walk that far.”
He said he uses his maybe three times a week during hunting season and fires it up about once a month when it’s not just to keep the motor fresh.
“We are really just using them as we see them intended,” he said. “It’s sort of like a mini vehicle that gets us to and from our camp or hunting spot. We use it more as a mini truck. I carry guns, hunting equipment. It’s the only way we can get to where we need to go or have to go.”
He believes the majority of four-wheeler users are those using it for good purposes, but there are always the “bad apples.”
“I think that like anything you’ve got your bad apples that people tend to see that and then associate that when somebody’s got a four-wheeler,” he said. “They think, ‘oh those guys have to be going and tearing up the land’ and putting a bad name to those of us who are using it for what I see them being evolved for. It’s mini vehicles to get you and your equipment to and from.”
For him it goes back to safety at all times.
“We use a helmet, low speeds,” he said. “If I don’t feel fully comfortable going into a place, then we go around a different place. We’re always taking safety precautions. I could hurt myself and live with it but if I hurt him, that’s more than I’m willing to do.
“I think not all people on four-wheelers are out destroying land or are derelicts. Some of us do use them for work, farm purposes or getting you from Point A to Point B for hunting scenarios. I do agree action should be taken if those derelicts are not doing what the law says.”