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West Point talks golf cart rules

During the Nov. 24 work session, the West Point City Council discussed an ordinance that would allow for the use of motorized carts on certain city streets.

City Manager Ed Moon began the discussion outlining several items the council would need to consider before moving forward with an ordinance. Those items included how many wheels the carts needed to have, what city streets to designate, local registration, licensing fees, decals and inspections, time of day for operation and insurance requirements.

Under Georgia state law, there can be no less than three wheels on a motorized cart. With that in mind, Moon asked the council how many wheels they would like the ordinance to contain. “Most of those three-wheeled carts are extremely old golf carts that you don’t find anymore and they are a bit dangerous. So, would the council like to see three wheels, four wheels, just can’t be less than three?” Moon asked.

“Considering the safety concerns, my recommendation on that would be no less than four wheels,” said Councilwoman Deedee Williams.

Moon pointed out that motorized carts cannot be driven on state highways, according to state law.

“This is a bit challenging, I think, for us, because of the way that our city’s laid out in the grid pattern,” Moon said.

Moon went on to suggest that designating streets to be based upon the speed limit.

“In looking at our ordinance, the majority of our streets are 30 miles per hour. However, if the street is not signed, then it is 35 miles per hour. So, if the council chose to make them legal on streets of 35 miles per hour that will cover most all of the residential area, and it will cover the downtown area as well.”

Safety was the primary focus of the discussion with the council, starting with age to registration and operation of a motorized cart. Williams offered her suggestion that a person would have to be at least 21 years old to register and Councilwoman Sandra Thornton took that suggestion one step further and suggested that 21 be the age to both register and operate.

Mayor Steve Tramell said he had no problem with that but offered another opinion for the council to consider.

“I’ve got no problem with that, other than you can have a driver’s license at 16 and drive a car,” Trammell said. “Why can’t you drive a cart is what we are going to hear from people.”

While agreeing with Tramell’s statement, Councilman Henry Hutchinson said he thought the best way to govern this was to mirror the state requirements for obtaining a driver’s license. Hutchinson also said his biggest concern would be the nighttime riding.

Tramell echoed Hutchinson’s sentiment.

“I do think they should have brake lights, at minimum brake lights, if not headlights,” Trammell said. “I think the headlights would kind of tie into whether or not we’re allowing any kind at nighttime but even in the daytime, in my opinion, brake lights are important.”

Williams asked for clarity on whether or not law enforcement would monitor and enforce the law like they would for someone driving a car. Moon said anyone riding a motorized cart would have to follow the rules of the road.

“I think Georgia law says you have to be 16. There is some language about being 15 and allowed to drive but there was a date that everyone had to be 16.”

Moon said all of this would go before the city’s attorney, Alex Dixon, for review.

Councilman Gerald Ledbetter asked whether or not insurance would be a requirement. Moon responded that it would be a local requirement and that the council could require proof of liability insurance to be shown at the time of registration.

“My recommendation is that we require some type of liability, probably state minimums. We have to think about other people on the road, not just the people riding,” Ledbetter said.

Lebetter then turned his attention to the street discussion, saying that some of the streets in West Point are not wide enough to fit two cars down. He said there are many that are wide enough to create some sort of pedestrian lane that could include the use of the carts and bicycles.

“When I think about selectively approving it for certain streets, I think about the discrepancy in the width of the streets from community to community, the condition of the streets from community to community,” Williams said. “That is something we really need to address long term.”

As the discussion concluded, Tramell instructed Moon to continue to work on the ordinance and said the council would continue the discussion during their next work session on Dec. 10.

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