Officials speak out about illegally operating golf carts on City and County roads
A series of complaints have been made to the Daviess County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) and commissioners with Daviess County Fiscal Court regarding golf carts being operated on roadways. In an effort to reduce accidents and keep residents safe, both agencies have spoken out about illegally driving golf carts on City and County roads.
It isn’t just golf carts that are illegal to operate on local roadways, but low-speed vehicles, (such as motor scooters with speeds of 50cc and below), utility vehicles–such as ATVs (all-terrain vehicles), UTVs (Utility Task Vehicles) and riding lawn mowers are all prohibited on City and County public and residential neighborhood streets.
A copy of the ordinance, banning the use of golf carts on roadways, was posted to DCSO’s Facebook page on Wednesday. This ordinance states, “The operation of golf carts, low-speed vehicles, or utility vehicles, as those terms are defined in the Kentucky Revised Statutes, is prohibited on all public roadways, streets, or highways within Daviess County and the City of Owensboro.”
According to Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly, emails of concern regarding this issue are received regularly. As of late, several of these complaints have come from residents living in West Daviess County.
“Apparently there are some people who like to use golf carts in their subdivisions,” Mattingly said. “We do not allow them on County roads, the City doesn’t allow them on City streets. Now, that being said, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.”
Both Mattingly and DCSO confirmed that deputies don’t typically drive throughout the county trying to catch those operating vehicles of this nature. However, deputies always respond to calls they receive about this issue — usually from drivers who are frustrated by slow speeds and dangerous circumstances these vehicles create on the road.
“We have attempted in the past to passively enforce this ordinance with verbal or written warnings,” DCSO stated. “However, due to the previously indicated complaints, deputies will begin to issue citations to offenders. Everyone’s compliance and cooperation is appreciated.”
Resident Beth Wimsatt-Ewing, who lives in the west end neighborhood of Windstone, has found that she now has to defend her decision for owning a golf cart.
“We bought a golf cart two weeks before moving here. We planned on using it to ride around, for trick-or-treating,” Wimsatt-Ewing said. “We have not been pulled over on our golf cart but, after we came back from vacation, that was when this big stink started.”
Wimsatt-Ewing said she became unsure about riding her golf cart around the neighborhood after she learned of the complaints being made.
“No one in our neighborhood has complained,” she said. “The frustration comes from one or two people in the neighborhood right beside ours. I believe the complaints are being made because these people have seen kids riding the golf carts around. It’s an issue of recklessness — not slow-moving traffic.”
County Attorney Claud Porter said state regulations permit some counties, in certain instances, the right to drive these vehicles on neighborhood and public streets. However, Daviess County and Owensboro — with the exception of the City of Whitesville — have passed ordinances prohibiting this.
“There are no places in Daviess County in which you may operate a golf cart or low-speed vehicles on public rights-of-way,” Porter said.
This prohibition is due to dangerous situations that can, and have, occurred when these vehicles have been operated on roadways. In fact, Mattingly said one of the big concerns in Daviess County has been parents allowing their children — children too young to even have a driver’s license — to drive golf carts on public roads.
“There’s a lot of difference between pedestrians [on bicycles] and golf carts,” Porter said. “There’s a lot of kids you see riding out on them because they’re low speed. [However], they’re susceptible to being run over — literally, run over — by vehicles because you can’t see them and they’re going 10 to 15 miles an hour.”
Mattingly said most communities that allow golf carts to be driven legally are gated or closed-in.
“People in those communities know to watch for them,” he said. “When you have communities that are open to the public, it becomes a real danger. People don’t have a clue those golf carts are there.”
Mattingly said he was approached by DCSO about a 9-year-old they found driving a golf cart full of children while other vehicles whizzed by on a busy street. In Mattingly’s own subdivision, he said he saw a golf cart driven by children as they pulled another kid behind them on a skateboard.
“We have enough issues with pedestrians and bikers getting hurt,” Mattingly said. “Every year we’ve had a fatality on our roads, streets and highways because of four-wheelers. It’s just something that we don’t need to have out there.”
Meanwhile, Wimsatt-Ewing said that, while she fully supports an ordinance allowing golf carts to be driven, she believes that ordinance should have stipulations.
“I think some people are mad about [the prohibition of golf carts], but we don’t get to change the law. We can go to Fiscal Court and speak our minds about it, but a new ordinance needs to have rules,” she said. “I have an eight-year-old daughter, and she isn’t going to drive a golf cart.”