No golf carts on county roads

MARSHALL CO. — Following a public hearing Monday at the Marshall County Building, county commissioners were unable to come to an agreement regarding golf cart access on county roads.
“I’m seeing three different views by the three different commissioners here,” commented commissioner Jack Roose following the end of the discussion Monday.
In the beginning of June, commissioners passed an ordinance on first reading allowing golf cart traffic only on roads with reduced speed limits or in neighborhoods surrounding area lakes and golf courses.
At that time, County Attorney Jim Clevenger was asked by commissioners to revise or prepare a second version of the ordinance that would allow golf cart traffic on all county roads to be considered for the two further readings of the ordinance.
About 15 individuals attended the public hearing Monday to voice their opinion on the matter. Among them was Leo Watson of Culver. Watson compared golf cart use to bicycle use, noting that both bicycles and golf carts travel at a similar slow speed. He also presented statistics showing that more people are injured by riding bicycles on roads than riding golf carts on roads. Watson said that he is in favor of giving golf carts full access to county roads.
Susie Norwich, also of Culver, was also in favor of giving golf carts access to county roads. She said that she sees horses, young children on bikes, and joggers going down county roads all the time. Golf carts, in her opinion, would not pose any more danger than these other potential hazards to motorists.
“Anytime you go on a road, you have a risk,” said Norwich. “When you go around a curve (on a county road) you know you have to watch.”
Bruce Carter, of Culver, said that he believes allowing golf carts access on county roads will increase accidents.
“You guys are responsible for the legislature of the county, and you can pass laws to keep us safe,” said Carter to the commissioners. “Have you heard that a majority of licensed drivers in Marshall County want golf carts? I don’t think so — there is a silent majority (that don’t want golf carts on county roads).”
Carter concluded, “I’m in favor of golf carts on a golf course, and that’s it.”
Sheriff Tom Chamberlin and Coroner Bill Cleavenger both weighed in on the subject, and both opposed carts on the roads.
“My concern is that on county roads, the speed limit is 55 miles per hour,” said Chamberlin. “Most vehicles are doing 55 plus…my concern first and foremost is them coming up on a slow-moving vehicle.”
Chamberlin asked that the commissioners only allow golf carts access on roads with a speed limit of 35 miles per hour or less. Other concerns he brought up included passing issues with the width of some county roads, low light issues, and carts traveling in bad weather.
Cleavenger noted that while Marshall County has not yet had a fatality related to golf cart travel, he believes such a situation could occur if carts were permitted on county roads.
“If you are going to permit it, make it extremely restricted,” said Cleavenger.
He asked for access only on roads with a 20 mile per hour speed limit and only during daylight hours. He also asked that carts be required to have flashing lights.
“These things are just not meant to be on the road and stand up to vehicular traffic,” said Cleavenger.
Commissioner Roose said that he feels golf carts should be allowed total access to county roads, to which commissioner Greg Compton responded, “I think we are putting our citizens in danger — I cannot be in favor of that.”
Commission Kevin Overmyer said, ‘I think doing it by speed limit is the best thing,” and suggested access on 45 mile per hour roads.
He added that he does not want to see carts on Michigan Road because of the high amount of daily traffic on that road — 12,000 vehicles per day according to county highway superintendent Neal Haeck.
Roose made a motion to allow carts on all county roads with lights and other safety features. His motion was not seconded. Compton made a motion to draw up an ordinance allowing carts on county roads with a speed limit of 35 miles per hour or less, and only during daylight hours. His motion was also not seconded.
“We are at an impasse here, so I guess at this time there are still no golf carts allowed on county roads,” concluded Overmyer.