Officials from the City of Hattiesburg have drafted a proposed ordinance that would regulate the use of golf carts in the city, including where those vehicles can be used and basic safety standards, approximately a month after floating the idea at a recent Hattiesburg City Council meeting.
The proposed ordinance, which is the brainchild of council president Jeffrey George and Hunter White – who serves as engineering project manager for the city – was presented at the council’s August 1 work session.
“(It) outlines a number of things that must go into said ordinance, and that other cities around our state are doing, in terms of golf cart ordinances,” George said. “We said that we’d be presenting to (the council) a draft of that ordinance, and so in order to kind of keep with that timeline (we’re doing that now).
“Also keeping into consideration that high time for use of golf carts is coming up with football season and things like that, we wanted to go forward and present a draft of the ordinance, understanding that there’s still a few details that need to be worked out and a few conversations that need to be had.”
Prior the 2021 session of the Mississippi Legislature, operating golf carts and similar “low speed vehicles” on public roads was illegal throughout the state. But during that session, legislators passed Senate Bill 2605, which made it possible for cities and towns to pass ordinances to legally allow the vehicles on certain streets.
However, until a municipality does pass an ordinance of that measure, the use of golf carts and low speed vehicles on public roads remains illegal. So far, eight other municipalities across the state have passed similar ordinances.
“State law really doesn’t allow for much flexibility in this ordinance, with the exception of which streets golf carts are allowed on,” George told council members. “We discussed during our last work session where the streets with a speed limit of 30 miles per hour or less – also taking into consideration any (Mississippi Department of Transportation) right-of-way – would be off limits for golf carts.
“So I ask that you review this, and please give any feedback to myself or Hunter as quickly as possible, because I would like to bring a final draft for your consideration at our next meeting.”
The proposed ordinance, among other measures, defines “golf cart” as a motor vehicle that is designated an manufactured for operation on a golf course for sporting or recreational purposes; is not capable of exceeding a speed of 20 miles per hour; and is equipped with safety equipment as required under Mississippi law. It also defines “low-speed vehicles” as any four-wheeled electric or gasoline-powered vehicle that has a top speed of more than 20 miles per hour but less than 25 miles per hour, and is equipped with the aforementioned safety equipment.
The ordinance also would require such vehicles to be registered in the office of the city clerk, which would be responsible for such registration and handing out a registration sticker to be placed on the vehicles. Perhaps one of the most noticeable measures of the ordinance is that it would require any person operating a golf cart or low-speed vehicle to be a licensed driver in the state of Mississippi.
“Safety is our top priority,” George said when the ordinance was first discussed. “Golf cart use in Hattiesburg has become more common, and you’re seeing it a lot in midtown, especially around football and baseball season with people going to (sporting events).
“So we really focused on making sure that everybody is being safe, and so (this is us) putting in place some guidelines as to ‘here’s the things you have to have on your golf cart and here are the streets you’re allowed to operate them on.’ Also, the general requirement that you must be a licensed driver to be operating one of these vehicles – those are kind of the goals that we have.”
According to the ordinance, additional roads and streets where the operation of golf carts and low-speed vehicles are prohibited will be determined by the city’s traffic committee. Determinations will be made based on the average daily traffic count, recommendations by governing authorities and public safety stakeholders, road or street design, and additional necessary determining factors.
“This ordinance is adopted to address the interest of public safety,” the ordinance states. “Golf carts and low-speed vehicles are not designed or manufactured to be used on public roads and streets.
“The City of Hattiesburg, by regulating the operation of golf carts and low-speed vehicles, is addressing obvious safety issues, and adoption of this ordinance is not to be relied upon as a determination that operation on public roads and streets is safe and/or advisable if done in accordance with this ordinance. Persons who operate or ride upon golf carts and low-speed vehicles on public roads and streets do so at their own peril and must be observant and attentive to the safety of themselves and others, including their passengers, other motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.”