LPD: dirt bikes should not be on roadways

Published 7:46 pm Monday, October 14, 2019

Teenagers riding dirt bikes in the roadways is an all too common sight in some neighborhoods. However, the LaGrange Police Department warns parents that riding those off-road vehicles on roads shared with cars and trucks is not only illegal — it can be lethal.

In recent years, the LaGrange Police Department has responded to more than 130 reports of dirt bikes in the roadways per year. At the same time, the department responds to roughly 2,300 vehicle collisions a year in the city, and unfortunately, some of those collisions have involved dirt bikes.

“Thirty-nine percent of all of our collisions and the fatalities —from January 2011 through Oct. 1, 2019, we had 18 fatalities — 39 percent of them involved either a person on a bicycle, a motorcycle, a dirt bike or a scooter,” Kostial said. “That’s one of the reasons why we want to get this word out that these things are inherently dangerous.”

That danger is something that local dirt bike riders have seen on City of LaGrange streets. On Sept. 5, 2016, a dirt bike rider was killed near Berta Weathersbee Elementary School. Another fatal wreck involving a dirt bike was reported on Polk Street near Lindsey Street on Aug. 28, 2009. In April 2017 a wreck involving a four-wheeler resulting in the operator being seriously injured and transported to a medical facility in Columbus for treatment.

Kostial said that part of the problem is that dirt bikes and ATVs were not built to have the safety features required to drive on normal roads.

“There are a lot of requirements that must be met before a dirt bike or an ATV can be ridden on the road,” Kostial said. “Quite frankly — the way that they’re built — they will never meet those requirements. I mean, they don’t have headlights. They don’t have tail lights. They don’t have turn signals. They don’t have a tag. They don’t have insurance. More often than not, the operators aren’t wearing a helmet.”

However, he said that the problem goes beyond the dirt bikes themselves.

“You know, whenever these kids that are out there, operating these vehicles on the roadway, more often than not, they’re not obeying any of the traffic laws, or at least the vast majority of the traffic laws, which means that they’re more likely to become involved in a wreck,” Kostial said. “If they’re involved in a wreck, then there’s a heightened risk of receiving some type of injury if not being killed in that wreck.”

Kostial encouraged parents considering purchasing dirt bikes for their children to stop and think about where they can safely and legally ride the bikes.

“There’s an inherent risk of our officers pursuing these dirt bikes,” Kostial said. “That’s not to say that we will not pursue them. But, we’ve got to really walk a fine line because we know that we’ve got probably a younger or an inexperienced operator on a vehicle, who’s more often than not clearly driving recklessly. What we don’t want to have happen is by merely pursuing this individual, we don’t want to have that dirt bike wreck into another car, and all of a sudden, we’ve got a wreck with injuries or another fatality.”