Gardaí warn of ‘epidemic’ of illegal motocross and quad bikes among teenagers

Children as young as six are riding off-road vehicles on public paths and roads


The illegal use of motocross scramblers and quad bikes among young people has reached “epidemic proportions”, a garda has claimed.

Garda Paul Burke, who is part of Dublin Castle’s road policing section, said he has witnessed children as young as six riding a motocross in public parks in south Dublin.

He has also stopped teenagers under the age of 18 and tested them for drugs or alcohol. “They have come up positive for cannabis and cocaine,” he said.

Motocross scramblers and quad bikes are meant for off-road use only and do not have a licence plate or tax disc.

Those who ride them do not require a driver’s licence or insurance though you must be at least 16 to qualify for a licence in order to be able to drive on a public road.

“A huge proportion of these vehicles are stolen. Some of them have been stolen two or three times,” Garda Burke said.

“The issue is that this is full-on going into criminality causing huge danger to people when they are riding on the road and on the pavements, often without helmets.

“Some of these guys are quite violent. If I try and stop them, some of them will try to take the motorcycle back off me.”

The dangers of scrambler bikes were highlighted last year when a Lithuanian man who had just arrived in Ireland to start a new life suffered catastrophic injuries when he was hit by one while sunbathing in Darndale Park.

Ilabek Avetian (39) lost his left eye and suffered multiple facial fractures, including a fracture of the forehead bones.

Spinal cord injuries

Orthopaedic surgeon and motorcycle rider Keith Synnott said he knew of young people presenting to Temple Street Children’s Hospital with injuries that can have life-long consequences.

“From our perspective what we are seeing are spinal cord and spinal column injuries. Most kids who injure themselves coming off trampolines or playing football get low impact injuries,” he explained.

“It takes a lot of energy to produce these types of spinal injuries. It only happens if you have motorised vehicles. Quad bikes and scramblers are not toys. they are heavy, dangerous pieces of machinery that can cause life-changing injuries or death.

“Impacts often happen on areas of uneven ground or as a result of unstable vehicles especially in the hands of children, leading to people falling and landing awkwardly or the vehicle landing on the rider.”

Mr Synnott and Garda Burke were present at a press briefing by An Garda Siochana and the Road Safety Authority (RSA) highlighting the dangers present when riding a motorbike.

So far this year four motorcyclists have been killed in comparison with one up until the same time this year. Motorcyclists are overrepresented by a factor of six in road death fatalities accounting for 12 per cent of all deaths, but only 2 per cent of vehicle users.

Garda Derek Cloughley revealed that gardaí had impounded almost 900 vehicles since the so-called Clancy amendment came into force in December.

The amendment is named after mother and daughter Geraldine and Louise Clancy who were killed on December 22nd, 2015, when unaccompanied learner driver Susan Gleeson lost control of her car in Co Cork.

The law now means that gardaí can impound any vehicle being driven by an unaccompanied learner driver. The vehicles can be returned to the owner if a €120 fine is paid within 24 hours, else the fee is €35 a day on top of that.