Law enforcement concerned about juveniles on ATVs

Published 10:59 pm Friday, March 29, 2024

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By Sequite Howard-Harris

Special to The Demopolis Times

The Marengo County Sheriff’s office is working to address reports of juveniles riding all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) in public roadways.

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Marengo County Sheriff Robert Alston said teens below the age required to gain a driver’s license, age 16, lack the necessary skills to drive safely on public roads.

“[Teens] are not experienced drivers and do not take caution to the danger of ATV’s,” Alston said. “They do not know about the speed or stop signs. They are not supposed to be on the roadway and shouldn’t be on the road at all.”  

According to Alston, drivers should be at least 16 years old and should wear helmets when operating an ATV. At the age of 16, the driver should have gone through courses or classes to understand the rules of the roadway. 

Eyewitnesses report observing teens on ATVs who fail to halt at stop signs, a scenario which endangers the driver and other motorists. Training would provide them with an understanding of the rules of the road, he explained. 

Sha’Kita Hall has witnessed juveniles driving ATVs on Marengo County roads and stated that parents should register their vehicles. Within her neighborhood she has observed juveniles driving at a fast rate of speed. 

“There is a traffic light located off of Mariah Avenue where I have seen juveniles on ATVs with no adult supervision,” Hall said. 

Hall expressed her concern over youths driving on roadways. She said Mariah Avenue is a busy roadway, and juveniles not knowing when to stop and go is very dangerous. 

Hall has also seen juvenile drivers as young as the age of nine driving ATVs on public roads.  

“There are also times when other children are hanging off the back of an ATV while the juvenile driver is going at a fast rate of speed. This is really a safety concern,” Hall said.

On several occasions Hall and other neighbors reported the incidents. When officers arrived, she described the juveniles and the ATV. The officer would then try to locate the juvenile.  

Alston advises parents to prevent their children from operating ATVs alone. 

“They need to be in a controlled environment and shouldn’t be on any roadways,” Alston said. “They should have someone responsible with them to monitor them and make sure they do not go over a certain speed. Make sure they’re driving very carefully and respect other people who are also driving.”

The Sheriff noted there are consequences for parents who allow their children to drive ATVs on the road. Parents will receive a citation if a juvenile is found in violation and will be ordered to attend court. 

The cost of the citation will depend upon the violation, with the minimum fine starting at $180.

Hall was concerned over the children’s safety and advised parents to take caution and follow the rules of the road. because “anything can happen in a blink of an eye.” 

Parents are supposed to be protectors, Hall said. She understands that juveniles may have been taught how to operate the ATVs but noted they should also be supervised. 

Hall, who works with the Marengo County Sheriff’s office, asked that parents stop getting upset when they are told that their juvenile is violating the law.

For information about rules for operating ATVs or to report concerns, please call the Marengo County Sheriff’s Department at 334-295-4208.