FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Martin Luther King Jr. Day is in five days and already the law enforcement community in South Florida was warning riders of dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles to avoid taking to the streets or face the consequences.
Florida Highway Patrol troopers and Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies stood together during a news conference on Wednesday to address the MLK Rideout tradition in South Florida’s highways.
“It’s illegal to operate ATVs and dirt bikes on the roadways ... We will outnumber the riders as we always do,” FHP Major Robert Chandler said during a news conference.
If caught, riders face fines and authorities will temporarily seize their bikes or ATVs. Chandler said the Florida legislature will pass laws that will make it a crime for groups to cause disruptions on the road.
“To make it no longer just a traffic infraction,” Chandler said. “That gives law enforcement just a little bit more power. It also gives us the ability ... to impound vehicles to where they don’t get them back.”
Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony said deputies have a strategy in place to monitor, track and arrest the riders without putting drivers in harm’s way.
Tony’s advice for drivers: “If you find yourself in traffic while these daredevils and reckless individuals are driving by, we want you to come to a halt, we want you to pull off to the side of the road, and let us do our job. You may not see us, you may not hear us, but we are there.”
For years, the groups of ATV and dirt bike riders have included thrill-seekers who perform dangerous stunts on highways and streets.
The tradition began as the “Wheels Up; Guns Down” event, which organizers first promoted on social media, as a truce in honor of the Baptist minister who led the peaceful protests of the U.S. civil rights movement until his murder in 1968.