ACADIANA, La. (KLFY) – An increase in ATV accidents has Acadiana law enforcement cracking down on where and how ATVs can be used.

“Two factors can happen. Obviously being cited for it and secondly, the ATV being impounded, and they both come with a cost on them,” said Acadia Parish Sheriff K.P. Gibson.  “I’d rather make people upset about it than see somebody’s child die.” He stresses the importance of ATV vehicle safety. He says it is a safety issue to ride ATVs on the highways and roads because there is no protection. 

“You always want to have eye protection. You always want to wear helmets. Boots are recommended when operating vehicles like this to keep your ankles secure,” said Sr. Cpl Matthew Benoit of Lafayette Police Department.

“They were meant for off-road. They’re meant to work in a field out in the rural area,” said Sheriff Gibson. “They’ve been meant to be used for work and getting into places, maybe, that you can’t with a truck and so forth.” 

He says he often sees people riding ATVs with more than one person. “We’re seeing young adults and a lot of children under the age of 18. They’re riding two or three people on a four-wheeler, driving 40, 50 plus miles an hour,” he said. “An ATV can get up to 50 to 70 miles an hour depending on what you have. Imagine just hitting something and flipping, it’s not the impact of the car, but you were impacted by a tree or a fence or even the ground; It’s not safe to be used as a toy.” 

The Sheriff says that Acadia Parish has had about six deaths and other severe accidents in the past five years. “One death is more than enough. One major injury is more than enough, and we had multiple over the last handful of years,” said Sheriff Gibson. 

Lafayette police are also cracking down and citing ATV drivers operating vehicles illegally. “If they’re not using it for farming or some type of industry, they have the permit to do that,” said Sr. Cpl Matthew Benoit. “The driver operator of that vehicle will be ticketed for operating on the roadways, and then the vehicles will be towed.” 

As children are out for summer, law enforcement is preparing for an increase in ATV use and is requesting parents’ help. “We see an increase of it during the summer where mom and dad are probably at work; kids are old enough to be on their own, and sometimes they take off, and we’re not saying mom and dad are always saying go do it. It might be the teenagers jumping on it while mom and dad were working,” said Sheriff Gibson. “I don’t want that limit to be pushed where we’re calling mom or dad saying come to the scene of this really bad accident because of injury or death.” 

Both Law enforcement agencies say they want people to have fun but remember to do it safely. “Just being present is going to keep your child doing better and handling that bike the way they were supposed to,” said Sr. Cpl Matthew Benoit. 

Sheriff K.P. Gibson says if caught riding an ATV illegally in Acadia Parish, most fines start to range from $250 and can escalate depending on the matter. He adds if you add that plus within impound of the four-wheeler or ATV, your cost could be over $500, maybe even more than that.