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New Haven to discuss golf carts on streets

Golf carts are a common sight in many senior and lake communities and have become a popular mode of travel in some Allen County communities, as well.

Some members of the New Haven City Council would like to see golf carts permitted on selected streets in New Haven, others are opposed to the idea, and a few have not yet made up their minds.

Proposed golf cart regulation will be up for a second reading at Tuesday’s council meeting, said Council President Tim Martin, R-5th.

The proposed city law was initiated last month by Councilman and former mayor Terry Werling, R-at large.The same type of ordinance was voted down in 2010 after the city’s fire, EMS and police chiefs raised safety concerns.

Werling said he talked to public safety officials before reintroducing the issue.

“I got endorsements from the EMS and fire department,” Werling said. “And while the police chief has not endorsed it, he did say he agrees with what’s in the ordinance.”

Werling consulted with the city’s attorney, Steve Harants, when drafting the golf cart rules, he said.

“We looked at other community ordinances and took the best of each and included it in ours, while adhering to the state statutes,” Werling said.

Golf carts are not allowed on streets in Fort Wayne, said police department spokesman Michael Joyner.

But several other communities in Allen County have policies to govern their use.

In New Haven, carts would not be allowed on major highways, only to cross them, and several other roadways may be excluded from use by carts, including Hartzell Road from Moeller Road to U.S. 30, Werling said.

The carts would be forbidden on that stretch of road and others like it, because there is no berm, he said.

Carts must yield to the right side of the road on the berm and factory seating would be required for all occupants. No more than four occupants would be allowed on the cart, and carts must be equipped with slow-moving vehicle signs. Children younger than 3 would not be allowed to ride and all carts would be required to have brake lights, rear view mirrors, head and tail lights, turn signals and windshields, according to the proposed ordinance.

At the last council meeting, Werling was asked by local resident and former councilwoman Mickey Hill why he continued to push for the use of carts in New Haven.

“The golf cart is safe transportation for someone who wants to move around the community, especially at community events,” Werling said. “It also saves a lot of money on gas.”

“We are not a lake or senior community, where I could understand the need,” Hill said.

Council members Bob Byrd, R-4th, and Sarah DiGangi, R-2nd, voted against introducing the ordinance, but were outvoted.

In the U.S., about 15,000 people a year are injured on golf carts, many of them children, Byrd said.

“I was amazed at the number of children under the age of 10 that were being injured,” he said. “Golf carts are made of fiberglass and aluminum and do not belong on the streets.”

Byrd was referring to a 2010 study by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which showed that of the nearly 15,000 people sent to emergency rooms each year with golf cart injuries, 40 percent involve children.

Falling from a golf cart was the most common cause of injury, and the number of golf cart-related injuries has increased steadily each year, according to the study.

In an email, Byrd also referred to a news story about a golf cart accident Aug. 1 at an Indiana University camp which injured a group of nurses who were working at summer camps for sick children. All five occupants were ejected and injured – one critically – after the cart rolled on its side, according to news reports.In Florida, where golf carts are a popular mode of transportation, it’s not uncommon to see ads for personal injury attorneys that target those involved in “golf cart injuries.”

Werling insists the proposaltakes safety into consideration. Other provisions include:

•Cart drivers must be licensed.

•Carts and drivers must register and pay a $30 fee.

•Drivers must have proof of financial responsibility.

•Carts cannot be on the street between midnight and 5 a.m.

•Those who violate the regulations are subject to fines of $50 to $100.

“About 98 percent of this is just common sense,” Werling said.

Decatur, a city of comparable size to New Haven, enacted a golf cart ordinance in 2009.

Other county communities that permit golf carts include Grabill, Huntertown, Leo-Cedarville, Woodburn and Monroeville.

“It’s the best thing we ever did,” said Don Gerardot, town council president in Monroeville. “It helps the elderly, especially in the summer, and people just enjoy it.”

“We don’t have the traffic that New Haven has, but I’ve been to Decatur and they seem to have no problems with the golf carts,” Gerardot said.

New Haven Councilman Ron Steinman, R-at large, is in favor of the ordinance while others said they are still undecided.

Councilman Craig Dellinger, R-3rd, wants to hear from public safety officials before making a decision, he said.

Tuesday’s meeting is at 7 p.m. in City Hall.

vsade@jg.net

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