Fairfield’s golf cart law will require inspections
Fairfield golfers wishing to drive their carts from home straight onto the green will have to do so for a price as Fairfield’s Public Safety and Transportation Committee drafts an ordinance requiring golf carts be outfitted like a motor vehicle.
According to police chief Julie Harvey, all golf carts must pass inspection showing the vehicle to be “state roadway ready,” complete with turn signals, headlights, a windshield and adequate brakes.
Harvey said residents have driven their golf carts a few blocks to the course for years, but she said it hasn’t been until recently the situation came to a head and she saw a need for an ordinance.
“People are coming from further and further away and are getting younger and younger,” she said.
In response, Harvey recommended an ordinance in October, allowing golfers to drive their carts on city streets within a three-block radius of either golf club in town. Drivers would be required to take the most direct route, only during daylight hours, and must have a valid driver’s license and be at least 16 years of age.
Previously, Harvey, believed the owner must simply have a valid driver’s license and attach a safety flag and slow-moving vehicle sign to the cart in order comply with state law.
According to Iowa Code, “Incorporated areas may, upon approval of their governing body, allow the operation of carts on city streets by persons possessing a valid driver’s license … The golf carts shall be equipped with a slow moving vehicle sign and a bicycle safety flag and operate on the streets only from sunrise to sunset.”
But upon further investigation, Harvey discovered golf carts must meet requirements of motor vehicles in order to drive on public roads.
Tom Gamrath, who handles the city’s insurance, Iowa Community Insurance Pool I.C.A.P., contacted Harvey after learning she recommended an ordinance. Gamrath had received sample ordinances from I.C.A.P., which included motor vehicle requirements provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Gamrath said as more towns adopt golf cart ordinances, I.C.A.P. developed guidelines to help cities it insured were aware of all regulations.
“If they [city council members] want to pass an ordinance, I.C.A.P. wants them to have all of the information they needed to do it right and not miss something,” he said.
Gamrath said while tractors and buggies can simply attach a reflective sticker to travel on public roads, golf carts cannot.
“They’re not considered slow moving vehicles and don’t qualify to have just a reflector,” he said.
Golf carts must be inspected in order to receive a permit, but the committee has not determined if city departments, such as the police, will be responsible for issuing permits.
While the committee doubted if residents would spend the money to bring their carts into compliance, Fairfield Golf & Country Club member and past president Tom McMahon believed some would.
“My gut reaction is people would outfit their carts to do that,” he said.
As for himself, McMahon, a self-described “avid golfer” bought an electric car the size of a golf cart so he could drive it to the country club.
“It is licensed and insured exactly like a car,” he said. “It just happens to carry golf clubs.”
McMahon also has a golf cart, which includes a windshield and turn signals. He said an increasing number of golf carts already may already include such features.
“A lot of carts have windshields and turn signals already,” he said.
Committee chairwoman Susan Silvers said once city attorney John Morrissey has reviewed the language of the ordinance, a public hearing and three readings will ensue before becoming law.