Despite local law enforcement’s cautionary post on social media, East Texans are using their off-road vehicles to help family and neighbors during the winter storm.
Longview Police Department posted an announcement on its Facebook page asking the public not to operate ATVs or UTVs on city roads.
“The Longview Police Department understands members of the community may do certain things that are a violation of the traffic laws during unusual weather events,” the department said in the post. “While it may be enticing to operate an off-road vehicle such as an All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) and a Utility Terrain Vehicle (UTV) on the snow-filled public streets of Longview, it is still illegal and can be dangerous. If a crash or damage to property occurred the operator could be financially responsible. The operator can also be issued a citation for driving such a vehicle on the roadway.”
The post garnered commenters who argued that the off-road vehicles are safer to use on the snow-packed and ice-covered roads than a regular vehicle.
Longview police spokesman Brandon Thornton said Wednesday that there is still a danger when using ATVs and UTVs on city streets. He said there are some exceptions in city code for golf carts around a golf course.
“They said a lot of (ATVs and UTVs) are street legal, but when they put those off-road tires on it, they’re not street legal anymore,” Thornton said, referring to comments on the post. “I guess, in a way, they think that they might be safer by driving those, but it’s still against the law to drive them on a public roadway.”
Thornton noted that people in standard vehicles or trucks might not be able to see the off-road vehicles as well.
Brittany Smith of Longview commented on the police department’s Facebook post, stating that she would risk the ticket to go check on her elderly family members using her ATV. She added that she passed by a Gregg County sheriff’s deputy, and the deputy waved at her.
“Using these vehicles, they’re made for mud and they’re made for snow,” Smith said. “I have an elderly grandmother and grandfather, and we made it to check on them.”
Smith used her ATV to check on family members as well make trips to the grocery store for them.
“We were helping people out of ditches, helping vehicles on our road at home,” Smith said. “It was way easier because that’s what they’re made for.”
She said she has never seen a winter storm of this magnitude.
“East Texas, everybody comes together,” Smith said.
Chance Greathouse, 30, of Mings Chapel in Upshur County, said he used his side-by-side UTV to pick up eggs from a neighbor and helped pull a vehicle out of a ditch.
“This is just an unheard of type weather for this area,” he said. “I, myself, am a truck driver and i travel all 48 continental states, so I get to experience this in the northern states a lot.”
He said his UTV is helpful on his property and helpful to check on neighbors in bad weather.
“I drove a couple miles down the backroads to a neighbor that had some farm fresh eggs because we were out and along the way, we saw a car that was slid off in the ditch,” Greathouse said. “Me and my dad were able to pull it out with our side-by-side.”
Greathouse also commented on the Longview police post.
“Worry bout ya self LPD,” he wrote. “PS. If any Ems or firefighters need a ride into work...I got a UTV.”
He joked that he tends to be sarcastic online but really was offering to give rides, if needed.
“It’s a lot less dangerous if it’s done correctly,” Greathouse said. “It’s real common in some of the northern states, like Montana and things like that. During this time of year, it is commonplace to ride four-wheelers and snowmobiles and UTVs through town up north.”
The most important thing to Greathouse is making sure neighbors look out for each other.
“I look at America as a whole, as a community — we’re one big community,” he said. “Now, we don’t treat each other like that a lot of times, but I’d like to see small town Texas treat each other around here and help each other out to be a good example. If everywhere in the country did that, it would be great. Texas likes helping each other, and I just think running the four-wheelers and stuff through town allows us to do that.”
Commenters on the Longview police Facebook post also referenced Kilgore Police Department’s Facebook call for those with off-road vehicles to assist where needed.
“It’s so thick now on our roadways, our efforts are futile,” the department wrote in a post Wednesday afternoon. “We have a list of people with 4x4’s assisting with citizens’ travel needs.”