Waxahachie looks to curb illegal use of golf carts, similar vehicles

Chris Roark
Waxahachie Daily Light

Hopping on a golf cart to go grab a hamburger may soon be a thing of the past in Waxahachie.

City leaders are looking to create an ordinance that makes it clear what’s acceptable and what isn’t when it comes to operating golf carts, neighborhood electric vehicles and off-highway vehicles.

Waxahachie city leaders are looking to clarify where golf carts, neighborhood electric vehicles and off-highway vehicles can legally be operated.

Last week Police Chief Wade Goolsby updated the City Council on issues the department has noticed recently involving those types of vehicles.

Of the three, neighborhood electric vehicles, which are similar to golf carts except they have a bench on the back for passengers, are seen being operated in questionable locations more often.

Goolsby said state law allows golf carts to be used in a master planned community, on a public or private beach, or a street where the speed limit is less than 35 mph and not more than 5 miles from the golf course and for the purpose of going to and from the golf course.

He said the requirement for neighborhood vehicles and off-highway vehicles is the same as golf carts except it is to be located within 2 miles and only to and from a golf course if it’s not a master planned community.

Goolsby said there seems to be confusion from the state law as it relates to “master planned community.”

“Was the Legislature intending to make it legal to ride a golf cart in any subdivision that has an HOA, or were they intending it for a more specialized community?” Goolsby said. “I think it was the latter. I don’t think they intended to make it legal in every subdivision otherwise they wouldn’t have used the term master planned community.

“As soon as the law came out people said, ‘Oh, I can ride them all over the streets in our neighborhoods,’” Goolsby said. “And that’s not what it says. But that’s where the confusion is.”

Goolsby said the Legislature later made a provision that stated a county or municipality can prohibit golf carts if they believe it’s in the interest of public safety. Or they can allow them with certain safety provisions. But until the city passes an ordinance operators must adhere to the state law.

Police Chief Wade Goolsby

Council members said they have seen those vehicles being driven in neighborhoods that don’t meet the state’s criteria, including across major thoroughfares. Mayor Pro Tem Billie Wallace said she has noticed them along sidewalks heading toward Whataburger. Councilman Travis Smith said in one particular neighborhood that doesn’t fit the criteria he has seen as many as 20 neighborhood electric vehicles on a weekend.

Goolsby said the vehicles have also been seen in parks and on trails. State law restricts them on public sidewalks, pedestrian walkways, public parks, school grounds or other public recreation areas not designed for motor vehicle traffic.

“We see them everywhere,” Goolsby said.

Officials are concerned with the dangers that come with operating these vehicles on busy roads. In addition, Goolsby said there was an incident when a teenager died after falling off a neighborhood electric vehicle and hitting her head.

Goolsby plans to draft an ordinance that outlines where the vehicles can be operated and then present it to the council for adoption.

Smith said he would like to require that the vehicles can only be operated on unstriped streets in neighborhoods where the speed limit is 30 mph or less.

He also pointed to the city of Ovilla’s ordinance, which restricts those vehicles on state highways, eliminating a large portion of travel outside of a neighborhood.