NASHVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) - Off-road vehicles are causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage along Nash County roads.
Sheriff Keith Stone is warning riders to stay off the shoulder of U.S. Highway 64 and other thoroughfares or face harsh penalties.
The Nash County Sheriff's Office social media manager posted announcements this week about the dangers drivers face from the all-terrain vehicles.
U.S. 64 is in the process of a widening project to convert it into a major stretch of future Interstate 87. The North Carolina Department of Transportation is spending a lot of money on the project, and also having additional unnecessary expenses of repairing damage from ATVs.
"It costs taxpayers money as they ride up and down. DOT has to keep coming back year after year to repair the damage," Nash County Deputy James Winstead said.
"People just like to joyride, and you can see them up and down the highway as we patrol the highways, going through the cuts through (Highway) 64."
The contract for shoulder reconstruction is $813,750, which does not include years North Carolina DOT workers address immediate concerns, such as a spot recently resurfaced near the Tarboro River.
Crews covered the severely eroded area with gravel within the past two weeks to protect it from further washout.
Stone said the loss of soil causes drop-offs at the edge of the highway pavement, and that has led to crashes involving drivers trying to pull onto the shoulder during roadside emergencies.
There are also drainage issues resulting in ruts and standing water.
Deputies have difficulty catching and citing some offenders.
"Sometimes it's very hard, because our patrol vehicles can't get into the wood line that an ATV can. Sometimes you can get citizens to stop for you, and some just keep on going," Winstead said.
"Most of the time, a warning would be issued. Once that warning is issued, if it continues, then a stiffer penalty."
Winstead said violators could face damage to property charges as well as potential trespassing troubles.
Investigators hope other drivers will watch for off-road riders and notify law enforcement, now that they know the dangers posed for all on the road.
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