By Melanie Williamson
Resident Julie Horn addressed city council at the Monday, September 10, city council meeting regarding the golf cart law that prohibits young children from riding as passengers on golf carts in town even if they are wearing seatbelts. According to Vermilion ordinance 475.03 Usage and Restrictions, “any child who falls under the child restrain criteria set by Ohio R.C. 4511.81 is prohibited from being a passenger in a golf cart operated on any City street, right of way or public area in the City of Vermilion.” This includes children who are up to 4 years old and less than 40 pounds which are required to be in a child safety seat or any child who is 8 years old or less and under 4’9″ in height who are required to be in a booster seat. (Ord. 2011-53. Passed 8-1-11.)
Horn shared that she has ridden around town with her now 6-year-old daughter in their golf cart for the past two years. Recently, she was stopped and informed that she was not allowed to have her daughter in the golf cart. Although the law regarding age restrictions was passed in 2011, Horn stated she had never been stopped before and was unaware of the law.
Horn researched other communities that allow golf carts including Put-in-Bay, Kelly’s Island, and Wakeman and found that none of them had age restrictions on golf carts. She also looked into state law and found that there were no legal age restrictions for golf carts. Taking her research a step further, she looked into state law for children on motorcycles and found that the only age-related restriction to have a child on a motorcycle is that they are big enough to have one leg on either side of the bike. Horn asserted that if a child is allowed to ride a motorcycle in Vermilion, which goes much faster than a golf cart and does not have seat belts, she doesn’t understand why they are restricting children riding in golf carts.
Vermilion is the only community she found that has placed an age restriction on passengers in golf carts. She explained that she feels, being a tourist town, that the age restriction can hurt tourism as visitors will be limited in how they can get around town if they are here with young children. She said this is also detrimental to parents or grandparents who may have limited mobility.
She stated that she sees the concern over other vehicles traveling to fast or passing golf carts in no passing zones. However, she stated that means the danger is coming from another driving breaking the law, opposed to the golf cart. She went on to say that all road-worthy golf carts are supposed to have seat belts and that all passengers should be wearing seat belts, and she agreed with that law as a necessary safety precaution. She urged city council to reconsider the age restriction and allow young children to ride in golf carts.
On the council agenda for the night was the third reading of Ordinance 2018-48, which was to amend Chapter 475 entitled “Golf Carts.” However, after Horn spoke, it was suggested that the ordinance be tabled for further discussion at the Monday, September 24, legislative committee meeting. Councilman John Gabriel stated that it would be better to only change the law once instead of going through the vote and then possibly changing it again in the near future. Council president Steve Herron agreed stating that while they did not want to drag the issue out, there are a lot of people that want to be heard.