Houston resident Jeremy St. John stops at the intersection of First Street and Pine Street while driving his Kawasaki Mule UTV last Friday morning in downtown Houston.

Now that the Houston City Council has approved the use of utility vehicles (UTVs) and golf carts on city streets, Police Chief Jim McNiell urges citizens to be aware of a few key points of the ordinance passed Aug. 3.

“The city council had been approached by citizens of the community, and this issue has been worked on frequently the past three months,” McNiell said. “It was tweaked and modified a few times and I’m very satisfied with the result. There was a lot of good consideration that went into it and it focuses a lot on safety.”

According to the ordinance (no. 2015-107), a UTV is defined as “any motorized vehicle manufactured and used exclusively for off-highway use which is more than 50 inches but no more than 67 inches in width, with an un-laden dry weight of 2,000 pounds or less, traveling on four to six wheels, to be used primarily for landscaping, lawn care or maintenance purposes.”

A golf cart is defined as “a motor vehicle that is designed and manufactured for operation on a golf course for sporting or recreational purposes and that is not capable of exceeding speeds of 20 miles per hour.”

Citizens wishing to operate qualified vehicles must be at least 18-years-old and have a valid driver’s license. They are required to purchase a permit for $15 (good from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 of a given year, with no prorating done for mid-year registration), affix a provided decal clearly visible on the left-rear of the vehicle, equip the rear of the vehicle with a bicycle safety flag at least seven feet tall and show proof of insurance specific to the vehicle.

Golf carts and UTVs can be driven on Houston streets between sunrise and sunset at speeds of no more than 20 miles per hour, and their use is not permitted on U.S. 63 or Highways 17 and B (although crossing highways is OK). Passengers under 18 must wear a helmet (either motorcycle or bicycle).

“We encourage people driving these vehicles to stay as far right on the road as is practical,” McNiell said, “and just use common sense.”

Licking and Cabool already have similar ordinances in place, but those cities also allow use of qualified ATVs.

Licking’s law went into effect in February of this year. Police Chief Scott Lindsey said 26 permits have been purchased so far, and no traffic incidents have resulted.

Cabool has had its ordinance in place since September 2005, and Cabool Police Sgt. Walter Darter (who has been with the agency since 1999) also said no related accidents have occurred.

“I’ve talked to both of their police chiefs, and found out they weren’t really having any trouble with the vehicles,” McNiell said.

Since most UTVs and golf carts are not equipped with turn signals, drivers are encouraged to use hand signals.

“Anyone who doesn’t remember how to do that can call us and we’ll go over it with them,” McNiell said. “It’s not our goal to go out there and start writing tickets – we’ll be patient and educate the public, and our officers will use their discretion in incidents regarding these vehicles. But like with any vehicle, we will stop people we see in violation and check things out.”

A vehicle inspection is not required for registration. By the end of last week, several permits had already been purchased.

The ordinance passed thanks to Houston Mayor Don Tottingham, whose yes vote broke a 3-3 tie among council members.

“I think this is a good thing for the community,” McNiell said. “You don’t want to be too restrictive when you have other communities doing something already, as long as it’s not detrimental, and I don’t think this is.”

For more information about the ordinance, call 417-967-3348.

“You don’t want to be too restrictive when you have other communities doing something already, as long as it’s not detrimental, and I don’t think this is.”


UTV – golf cart application

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