Sheriff seeks law allowing licensed drivers to operate golf carts

Carts would be allowed on parish roads with 25 mph or lower speed limits

St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne is asking Parish President Larry Cochran and the parish council to consider a new law that would make it legal for licensed drivers to operate properly-equipped golf carts on designated parish streets.

According to a Louisiana law enacted in 2015, the operation of golf carts upon any public roadway is currently illegal without a local ordinance. However, the practice is common in St. Charles Parish. Champagne said he has even heard residents describe the parish as a “golf cart” community.

“While the responsible operation of golf carts by both golfers and others has presented few safety issues over the years, we have now reached the point that the potential danger and civil liability that is presented by the operation of golf carts by unlicensed children and teenagers has, in my opinion, gotten out of hand,” Champagne wrote in a letter to Cochran.

Champagne is seeking support for an ordinance that would comply with state law by allowing only licensed drivers to operate golf carts if the carts are registered with the Louisiana Department of Motor Vehicles and the owner has obtained motor vehicle liability insurance covering the cart.

The ordinance, drafted by Champagne, would allow operation of golf carts on parish streets that have speed limits of 25 miles per hour or under.

Champagne said that the parish president has the authority to exempt any streets meeting this criteria from the ordinance.

State law also mandates that any golf cart operated on a designated parish roadway shall be quipped with efficient brakes, a reliable steering apparatus, safe tires, a rearview mirror and red reflectorized warning devices in both the front and rear of the vehicle.

“There is a place for the safe operation of golf carts by licensed and insured drivers on residential parish streets provided they meet all of the state imposed requirements,” Champagne said.

He also wrote that while the ordinance is being considered by the parish, the Sheriff’s Office will begin enforcing a transitional policy, points of which include:

– Deputies shall begin enforcing the prohibition of golf carts as to any unlicensed driver, and to any driver whether licensed or not who does not have a policy of motor vehicle liability insurance in their possession covering the golf cart.

– The golf cart must have front and rear lights including brake lights, and turn signals and reflectors as per the state statute.

– The golf cart should only be operated on parish streets with speed limits of 25 mph or less. The crossing of, or operation of a golf cart on any state highway, is prohibited.

– The golf cart can only carry the number of passengers for which it was designed.

Violations would potentially result in a citation and possible towing.

In his letter to Cochran, Champagne added that his office “regularly receives reports of close calls with children operating golf carts” and that the number of complaints has dramatically increased in recent years with more citizens purchasing the carts for joyriding.

If the parish does not adopt the proposal, Champagne will take that as “indication that (Cochran and council members) do not wish for golf carts to be operated on public streets and my office will at that point have no choice but to begin enforcing state law prohibiting golf carts on any public street.”

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