Golf cart rules

‘If the tag office down at the courthouse won’t give you a tag for it, you can’t operate it on the public roadways and streets’

According to law enforcement, all vehicles must be properly registered with the state, have a tag and be equipped with head and tail lights. Otherwise, they are not street legal. (stock photo/Pixabay)

CULLMAN, Ala. – There’s been a lot of discussion in Cullman and the surrounding municipalities the last few weeks about driving golf carts on public roads, on trails or in parks. According to law enforcement, all vehicles must be properly registered with the state, have a tag and be equipped with head and tail lights.

“If the tag office down at the courthouse won’t give you a tag for it, you can’t operate it on the public roadways and streets,” said Cullman Police Lt.  Jeff Warnke regarding the use of golf carts, ATVs and other motorized recreational vehicles within the Cullman city limits.

Furthermore, Warnke said, these vehicles are not welcome on trails specifically designed for foot traffic.

Alabama State Law 32-5-240 Section B (1) states, “Every motor vehicle, other than a motorcycle or motor-driven cycle, shall be equipped with at least two but not more than four head lamps.” Section C (1) states, “Every motor vehicle shall be equipped with at least one tail lamp mounted on the rear which, when lighted as required, emits a red light plainly visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear.” Standard golf carts do not meet these requirements and are not street legal.

Warnke said besides golf carts and ATVs not being legal to drive on public roads, they are prohibited in Heritage Park, Sportsman Lake Park and on other walking trails.

Although a specific ordinance regarding the use of motorized vehicles does not exist in the City of Cullman, Warnke pointed out, “There’s signage at the parks that you can’t ride them. Sportsman Lake Park technically resides in the city but is County property. They have signage on their walking trails around there prohibiting any motor-driven vehicles on there. The only thing allowed is bicycles and foot traffic.”

The Town of Vinemont does have a specific ordinance prohibiting the use of motorized vehicles on Town property as well as signage clearly displaying that the vehicles are not welcome.

The City of Good Hope, which recently purchased land to expand Municipal Park, is currently planning the addition of walking trails.

Good Hope Mayor Jerry Bartlett said that no ordinance currently exists but added, “We probably will with our new park and trails.”

The Town of Baileyton also prohibits the use of motorized vehicles on its walking trails.

When asked about the use of golf carts on the roads in Baileyton, Mayor Johnny Dyar responded, “That will be up to them and the law if they get caught.”

According to Hanceville Mayor Kenneth Nail, “We allow golf carts on the city streets but they must have a slow-moving placard placed on the back. Our stance is it could be farm equipment. We have never let ATVs on the roadway and we do not want any vehicles on the paved walking trails.”

Warnke said the walking trails at Duck River were specifically designed to deter motorized vehicles.

Warnke clarified that the City of Cullman does not consider a golf cart to be farm equipment and the orange triangle placard would not make a golf cart legal in the Cullman city limits. Warnke also made the distinction between Cullman and the retirement communities in Florida that allow golf carts on the roadways.

“There are tons of golf carts down there but every one of them has a Florida license plate on the back of it,” said Warnke. “They are paying road taxes. Every one of those golf carts has headlights on them. They’ve got taillights on them and they got a tag on them which makes them street legal. That’s the difference.”

The Cullman Police Department does work calls pertaining to golf carts and ATVs on the city’s streets. Warnke said that typically officers will warn the driver and inform them that they are breaking the law.

However, he added, “The parents, if the child is underage and they have allowed their child to drive, they could be held liable for an accident. If a child gets out riding a vehicle that is not street legal, if they are in an accident or even if they are not in an accident, and if they are underage and they don’t have a license, that’s a traffic citation. If the parents are allowing the child to drive that vehicle, that’s another traffic citation for the parent and I have issued that citation before. Any number of different violations could be assessed, and if they hurt somebody, there’s all kinds of legal ramifications…civil liabilities and everything else that’s out there that could end up costing a family a lot of money. They could lose the house, the farm and everything else.”

If a licensed driver were pulled over in a golf cart, he or she could be cited for a variety of violations including no tag, no headlights or no taillights. A person could also be cited for a DUI for driving under the influence in a recreational vehicle.

Warnke’s advice for those wanting to ride their golf carts and ATVs is this: “Keep it in the grass somewhere, either on the golf course, out in the field or in the woods. People are trying to push the limits and test the boundaries. If they put a trail in the middle of the park it’s designed for people to walk on, run on, or exercise. It’s not a race track. It’s not a Grand Prix track for a go cart or an ATV or anything else like that. People just need to use some common sense, good judgement and courtesy. You don’t want to be walking on a trail like that and have some teen on an all-terrain vehicle come flying around a curve on you and run you down.”

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Christy Perry