WILSON’S LOCAL PRINT AND DIGITAL COMMUNITY INSTITUTION SINCE 1896

‘Recipe for disaster’ with dirt bikes, ATVs on road

Police: Keep four-wheelers off-road, follow traffic safety laws

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Dirt bike violations on local roads have kept law enforcement on alert in recent months. And after a fatal dirt bike crash last week, police are hoping to prevent another community tragedy.

“We’ve gotten a lot of complaints in the last few months of dirt bikes and four-wheelers operating on the streets,” said Capt. Keith Pendergrass. “The problem is they are driving them illegally. And they are generally riding them without safety equipment and helmets.”

SATURDAY’S FATALITY

Officials say 21-year-old Ivory L. Huggins III died after the dirt bike he was riding collided with a car at the intersection of Hines and Moore streets last Saturday. He wasn’t wearing a helmet, and the dirt bike didn’t have the proper safety equipment, including headlights and taillights, Pendergrass said.

The driver of the car, a 64-year-old woman, told police Huggins and two other dirt bike operators were driving toward her, according to the police department incident report. The woman also told police the dirt bikes were swerving in the road.

When she turned to avoid the dirt bikes, one struck her car, according to records. The report also stated that a police officer had radioed about three dirt bikes driving in a “careless and reckless manner,” about 30 minutes prior to the fatal crash.

Three dirt bikes were found and confiscated Saturday night, Pendergrass said.

The crash, which is still under investigation, happened around 11 p.m.

RULES OF THE ROAD

Pendergrass said it’s illegal for a dirt bike to operate on the highway or roadway without properly being registered. The dirt bike must also have a license plate and the proper safety equipment, and the driver must have a license with a motorcycle endorsement. And, most importantly, a helmet is required by law, he said.

It’s illegal to operate any four-wheeler on public roads and highways.

In April 2017, another man, 39-year-old Michael Ray Sauls, died after police responded to the 300 block of South Street regarding an all-terrain vehicle crash. Sauls suffered a head injury after striking a tree while driving the ATV, according to police. No helmet was found at the scene, police said at the time.

‘RECIPE FOR DISASTER’

Police have been working hard to crack down on illegal operators within the city. Pendergrass said the dirt bikes they have found and confiscated haven’t been properly registered.

He said in all the complaints police received from the community, “none of them are registered and probably 100 percent of them have no helmets.”

Pendergrass said it becomes a “life-safety event” for not only the rider but pedestrians and others on the roads.

“If you are riding at night, you put yourself at a greater risk,” he said about dirt bike and four-wheeler operators. “Particularly when the safety equipment is not there, it makes it hard for people to see you.”

“It’s a recipe for disaster,” Pendergrass said.

‘WE ARE CRACKING DOWN’

Pendergrass said officers hope by educating the public on the dangers, they can prevent injuries and save a life.

He said resident complaints have occurred throughout the city including on the north side, south side and the Cavalier area. An increase in complaints usually occurs on the weekends. Police have also had several reports of dirt bikes stolen within the city. Pendergrass said officers are not only taking it all seriously, but are continuing to investigate the issue.

“We are working on a few things now to get these folks identified and put a stop to it,” he said.

And if police do catch someone operating a dirt bike or four-wheeler on the streets illegally, the operator will be cited for the appropriate traffic offenses, he said.

When violations occur, officers confiscate the four-wheelers and dirt bikes and have them towed. Then police investigate to see if they are stolen, Pendergrass added.

“There are a couple of locations where there is a whole lot of activity working on dirt bikes and motorcycles illegally at residential areas,” he said. “We are cracking down.”

WORKING TOGETHER

Pendergrass has been working with residents at neighborhood meetings, where complaints of dirt bikes and four-wheelers are a high priority on residents’ list. He said if people hear or see anything, they need to call police.

“Don’t hesitate,” Pendergrass said. “Get as many details as you can.”

Residents can also take a photo and send it to the Wilson Police Department’s Facebook page through a direct message or the Facebook Messenger smartphone app. He said it’s vital for the community and police to work together to solve the problem.

Anyone with information can call the Wilson Police Department at 252-399-2323 or Crime Stoppers at 252-243-2255.

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