ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – After riders driving all-terrain vehicles on Florida's Turnpike and Orange Avenue caused chaos over the weekend, officials from the Orange County Sheriff's Office announced that they're cracking down on this type of illegal behavior.
Capt. Carlos Torres said the problem isn't unique to Central Florida roadways as ATV and dirt bike riders nationwide are known to travel recklessly in large groups and evade law enforcement, often while documenting their antics on social media.
“Our goal is to keep everybody safe and if there are these individuals that are committing these types of acts, they’re terrorizing our public, we’re going to enforce the law," Torres said. "We’re going to use any and all available means to keep the public safe."
Torres said part of the problem is that ATV riders quickly gather and tend to act more erratically, even going off road, when they know law enforcement officers are nearby. This can pose a risk to the riders and other motorists.
“Like any vehicle that’s driving recklessly, (motorists) should drive very defensively as well, paying attention to the other vehicles surrounding them. Certainly if they see these individuals close to them they should give themselves some distance from these individuals and certainly notify law enforcement immediately of this type of activity,” Torres said.
Helicopter video recorded Sunday afternoon over Florida's Turnpike showed seven ATVs on the road making illegal U-turns with one of the vehicles causing a crash. Five arrests were made as a result of the incident, but deputies said they are still looking for more individuals who were likely connected to the crime.
“Anybody who’s willing to do this with full knowledge that they’re violating the law certainly for us it becomes a challenge. Nevertheless, we take this very seriously," Torres said.
Edgewood police responded Sunday to an incident where a husband and wife encountered the same group of people riding ATVs and dirt bikes.
The couple were driving north on Orange Avenue around 6 p.m. when a speeding dirt bike cut them off as they turned onto Holden Avenue, according to the report. The bike rider crashed into the victims' car landing on the windshield, police said.
When the couple stopped and got out to check on the driver, the motorcyclist, the operator got back on the motorbike and fled west on Holden Avenue, according to the report. The woman, who is five months pregnant, said she was then confronted by several other people from the ATV group and was struck on the back of her head. She said they also punched, kicked and beat her husband with their helmets.
Additionally, someone from the group took the woman's purse during the attack, police said.
Torres said the Orange County Sheriff's Office started tracking the group after the attack in Edgewood.
"We didn't know the magnitude of how many of these individual there were until we were actually able to go up in the helicopter and see (them) doing this kind of illegal activity," Torres said.
Anyone with information about people driving recklessly on off-road vehicles is asked to contact law enforcement officials.