Paris Police Chief Mike Henness, left, inspects a golf cart prior to issuing a permit to Charley Brown, right, allowing use of the vehicle on city streets. (Gary Henry/The Prairie Press)

Golf carts get the green light from Paris police

Golf cart enthusiasts may begin using those vehicles on some city streets starting March 1, but with the new freedom comes significant responsibility.

“We’ve established an information packet,” said police chief Mike Henness. “Anyone wanting to drive a golf cart on city streets needs to come to the police department, get a packet, take it home, fill it out and make an appointment for an inspection.”

When Henness, or another designated officer, is satisfied the paperwork is complete, the operator has insurance and the vehicle passes the safety inspection, the city will issue the annual permit allowing operation in town.

The packet includes a map showing Central, Main, Jefferson, High, Wood, Washington, Court, Madison, Crawford, Jefferson and Jasper as prohibited routes for golf carts

Other information includes basic safety information, a waiver of liability, a registration form, inspection checklist and copies of the city golf cart ordinance and state law regarding the operation of non-highway vehicles on city streets and other roadways. 

The local ordinance allows the crossing of Central and Main streets only at Grant, Monroe and Blackburn streets.

“Based on the past history and accidents, those seem to be the safest crossings,” said Henness.

The chief stressed Jasper Street is strictly off limits for golf cart operations.

“In no way can they ever operate the golf cart on Jasper Street, and no way can they ever cross Jasper Street on a golf cart,” said Henness. “You won’t be going to Wal-Mart on your golf cart.”

Another forbidden activity is operating the golf cart on sidewalks.

Henness said it is important those planning to use golf carts in town understand the vehicles are subject to all laws in the Illinois vehicle code while they are in use on city streets. Police officers will ticket golf cart operators who fail to use the required turn signals, disobey traffic signs or commit other infractions that would result in citations for motor vehicle operators. 

“You can get a DUI on a golf cart,” Henness warned.

He does not anticipate any serious issues as long as everyone adheres to the ordinance. 

“I’ve talked with chiefs of other departments about golf carts, and everyone of these departments have been surprised with the safe operations of golf carts in their communities. There haven’t been any major accidents,” said Henness.

Golf cart use, he said, grew from a grassroots effort in the community and the current ordinance is a starting point from which reasonable changes may be made in the future. 

Henness does not expect local residents to use golf carts at the same level seen in planned retirement communities, but he does anticipate the practice growing as a useful mode of transportation for some citizens.

Currently, there seems to be little interest among residents. Henness said the department has received only three inquiries about obtaining a 2017 permit, and Charley Brown brought his cart to the police station Wednesday afternoon for the required inspection. 

“I plan to enjoy it. Drive it back and forth to the shop and give the grandkids rides,” said Brown. “It’s something to just piddle around.”

The ride Brown delivered for inspection is a 1970 Cushman electric powered cart. He said it was used on a New York golf course owned by W.D. Campbell, who also owned Campbell’s Soup. The cart came to Brown via former Paris resident Robert Johns. Johns worked at the golf course maintaining equipment and mowers, and the cart passed to him, after being in storage for many years.

Brown said the headlights, taillights and other pieces of equipment are original but it is nearly impossible to find replacement pieces. As a result, he said newer technology may be required as he continues restoration. Getting the cart ready to satisfy the city ordinance included the installation of a windshield, rearview mirror, a flashing yellow light at the back, reflectors and installation of a slow moving vehicle emblem. 

“As long as everyone follows the city ordinance and reads the city ordinance, they should have a good golf cart experience,” said Henness. 

The Prairie Press

101 Central Avenue Paris, IL 61944