Somebody is going to die in the woods. As I've been talking to some of my fellow Long Island ATV riders, I've been hearing some very disturbing stories. (Yes, I know it is illegal on Long Island to ride ATVs on public lands. Put that aside for a second.) Riding acquaintances have told me that the latest tactic employed by law enforcement to catch illegal ATV riders involves staging situations in which a fellow rider or outdoor enthusiast appears to be injured. When the ATV rider stops to help, law enforcement officers emerge from hiding places in the woods, surround and capture the illegal rider.
Other than increased effectiveness in cracking down on illegal ATV riding, what else will this new approach bring about? Well, the word is starting to get out that riders shouldn't stop to help anybody, unless they're prepared to pay hefty fines. And that sucks.
Lots of people use local trails for a variety of activities, including hiking, mountain biking, paintball and all sorts of other outdoor sports. And everybody knows of somebody who has been hurt out in the middle of the woods. It's expected (nay, a moral imperative) for ATV riders to stop to help anyone in distress. Personally, I'd rather stop and get a fine than take off and wonder if I left someone who was legitimately hurt all alone in the woods.
But many riders don't feel the way I do. These days, many of them won't stop to help anyone anymore, out of fear of having their quad impounded by the DEC and getting hefty fines on top of the impound fee.
If law enforcement continues these tactics, we're going to have an incident. Someone will be hiking and take an errant hunter's bullet, or someone will break a leg mountain biking - something like that. And an ATV rider who could have stopped to help will instead take off in the opposite direction. All because law enforcement wants to use a dirty trick to catch more illegal ATV riders.
What's worse? Illegal riding or someone dying alone in the woods? It appears law enforcement doesn't know the obvious answer to that question.