Golf cart regulations approved in Waxahachie

Chris Roark
Waxahachie Daily Light

Golf carts and similar vehicles have been used in Waxahachie neighborhoods for years – some legally and some not.

But residents now have a set of guidelines that city leaders say clearly explains where and how they can be used.

The Waxahachie City Council approved an ordinance to provide guidelines on where and how golf carts and similar vehicles can be used in the city.

Monday the City Council voted 4-1 to adopt an ordinance that provides regulations for the use of golf carts, neighborhood electric vehicles and off-highway vehicles.

Police Chief Wade Goolsby, who drafted the ordinance following last month’s council workshop, said the ordinance helps clear up a state law related to these vehicles, which he said provides different regulations on each type of vehicle.

The guidelines in the ordinance apply to all three types of vehicles.

Goolsby said the state allows municipalities to have their own ordinance on use of these vehicles.

The adopted ordinance allows for the use of these vehicles on streets that have a posted speed limit of 30 mph or less as long as the street doesn’t have a center stripe.

“The center stripe really indicates that it’s a high volume road,” Goolsby told the council members during a council briefing Monday.

The ordinance also states the operator must be licensed to operate a motor vehicle and be insured. The vehicle must have certain equipment, such as headlights, taillights, reflectors, park brake, a slow-moving emblem and mirrors. Seatbelts must be in the vehicle, and they must be used.

They can’t be used on a sidewalk, walkway, playground, park or other public recreational area not designated for motor vehicles. They can’t be operated before sunrise or after sunset.

Violators can be issued a fine not to exceed $500.

“This is really a balance of allowing these on the streets but doing it in a safe way,” Goolsby said.

Councilman Travis Smith said the ordinance will clarify what the rules are and provide police with the tools to enforce them.

“They’re currently being used illegally,” Smith said. “And (police) have no way to regulate them.”

At the October work session, council members said they have seen those vehicles being driven in neighborhoods that don’t meet the state’s criteria, including across major thoroughfares.

Councilwoman Billie Wallace opposed the ordinance, citing safety concerns.

Wallace said while the ordinance allows for the vehicles to be allowed on streets with a speed limit of 30 mph, the city needs to consider car and truck drivers who drive over the speed limit.

“So now let’s go to 40. You hit someone on one of these, and they’re all going to be dead,” Wallace said.

Wallace also said she’s concerned the area where these will be allowed has expanded from what was discussed at the work session.

“When we first started talking about this at the work session, I was under the impression that it was around the golf course and such,” Wallace said. “But now we’re taking it to all the roadways, with a few exceptions. And I have some real issues with that.”

At the work session, Goolsby said the state law allows for the vehicles to be used within a master planned community or within five miles of a golf course if it’s a golf cart and within two miles of a golf course if it’s a neighborhood electric vehicles or off-highway vehicle. But he said there was confusion as to how the state intended “master planned community” to be interpreted, which has led to illegal use of the vehicles.

Monday, Goolsby said he understood the council’s direction at the work session to be to draft an ordinance that includes all neighborhoods.

But he said he, too, had safety concerns.

“I have concerns about them operating on the roadways because they’re really not designed to be operating on the roadways,” Goolsby said. “Of course, the counter argument on that is we’ve got motorcycles on the roadways."

“We tried to put in all the regulations to make it as safe as we can,” Goolsby said. “But the bottom line is if it gets hit by a car, they’re going to lose.”

Smith said residents in various neighborhoods have asked for these types of vehicles.

“When you sit back and look at it, this is to benefit residents and improve the quality of life there,” Smith said. “These are neighborhood vehicles that are equipped with seatbelts and everything else. There is literally no difference between what most of these are, what 90 percent of these are, and a motorcycle or a side-by-side.”

Smith said the ordinance makes it safer to operate the vehicles, since there will now be clear guidelines.

“If we don’t pass this to give the police some way to enforce it, (residents are) going to continue to do it illegally, and there’s no safety in place,” Smith said.