With complaints on the rise and safety as their main concern, Clinton police will begin Monday cracking down on those driving standard golf carts on roadways across the city.
First will come the warnings, but after 30 days citations will be written, stressed Clinton Police Lt. Tim King who heads the department’s traffic enforcement unit.
“Golf carts can’t be legally driven on roadways unless they are street legal,” King said. “We’ve got a lot of people driving carts around town, in neighborhoods throughout the city, that aren’t that way.”
To be street legal, a golf cart must have headlights and brake lights and owners must have registration and insurance on them just like a regular motor vehicle would carry.
“A standard golf cart is not street legal,” King stressed.
The push to crack down on violators comes on the heels of rising complaints and concerns across the city about golf carts impeding the flow of traffic on roadways across the city. Other concerns have arisen about the number of juveniles driving the golf carts, some darting out in front of motorists.
“I think it started with complaints about golf cart racing, probably with juveniles driving, and it’s just grown from there. Now it’s complaints throughout the city,” said Police Chief Jay Tilley. “With all the complaints coming in, we felt the time had come to address the situation, and we decided the best approach would be education versus enforcement.”
The education comes in the department’s efforts to publicize the difference between the golf carts and to alert users of the concerns and complaints being brought to officers’ attention. It will end with the 30 days of warnings to violators. Enforcement, if necessary, will then follow.
“We want everyone to understand that it is illegal to drive those standard golf carts in neighborhoods, downtown, on any roadway,” King stressed. “Doing so is a violation.”
Tilley said because the golf carts run on a battery and can’t travel at high rates of speed, many don’t think of them as potential dangers. But, he asserted, they can be.
“Most don’t think about what could happen if a golf cart ended up in an accident. The first thing is that the golf cart driver would be at fault because the carts aren’t supposed to be driven on the roadway … and that’s not even talking about the more serious impact should someone be injured.”
King acknowledged that most people use the golf carts because of their convenience, running from one neighbor’s house to another, but he emphasized again the bottom-line legality of the issue.
“The world we live in today is busy and often dangerous. It’s ever-changing and we have more vehicles on the road, more people out there. It’s just not safe for a golf cart to be out there with them. Our biggest thing is the safety aspect, and we know it’s a safety issue,” King said. “We don’t want someone getting hurt.”
The steady stream of complaints over the past few weeks have served as the catalyst for ramped up patrols.
“We’ll start with 30 days worth of warnings,” King said. “If a juvenile is driving, we’re going to take them home and inform their parents. After 30 days, the next step will be citations.”
That will not apply, however, to those driving golf carts and violating other highway laws, like driving while impaired or careless and reckless driving. “We catch that on the golf cart,” King said, “and there will be a citation whether the golf cart is a standard cart or street legal.”
Tilley and King acknowledged that some people will be upset by the stricter enforcement, but both stressed the importance of addressing the complaints and, above all else, ensuring safety.
“We aren’t out to upset people, that’s why we are trying to educate first. We hope that’s all it will take. We don’t want to write citations, but we will if we have too,” King said.