Enforcement key for all laws

Published 12:51 am Sunday, August 25, 2013

There I was, driving down Sixth Street in Ironton last week. I was paying close attention to every intersection to ensure drivers on perpendicular streets actually obeyed the big red signs that say “STOP,” which anyone who has driven through the city knows is sometimes a rarity.

I was shocked when a small golf cart zipped out in front of me like it was carrying Tiger Woods to the 18th hole of The Masters on a championship Sunday. Because I had been on the lookout, with some squealing brakes and burnt rubber, everything was okay.

What if we hadn’t been so lucky?

Then I asked myself, “Wait a second, did city council already pass that law?”

After doing a little research and asking around, I learned two interesting things.

First, the city has not yet approved the use of golf carts on city streets but some citizens feel comfortable enough that there are not any consequences for breaking the law that they hit the roads anyway.

Second, I found out that I am not alone in this near-crash experience.

So why would the city even bother to consider new laws if the existing ones aren’t going to be enforced?

It doesn’t matter if an individual agrees with a law or not. They are in place for a reason and we have a responsibility, as good citizens, to obey the laws on the books.

And it is up to the police to enforce all of them, too. An officer’s opinion on a particular law or who the individual breaking it is should be irrelevant.

The concept of allowing golf carts on Ironton’s streets is simply a bad idea at this time. The minimal benefits and tourism marketability are far surpassed by safety concerns and unanswered questions.

The bottom line is that even a street-legal golf cart doesn’t offer near the protection as that of a motor vehicle. What would be a minor crash between two cars could be fatal if it involved a cart.

Those who argue that carts are safer than motorcycles fail to acknowledge that the difference is maneuverability and speed, as well as years of data about the impact of motorcycle crashes.

Years of minimal traffic enforcement — for some legitimate reasons that include a lack of manpower and higher priorities, as well unjustifiable ones like pure apathy and political pressures — have created dangerous habits.

Far too many motorists in Ironton treat stop signs as optional. Red lights are more like suggestions than mandates. Speed limits are just numbers to laugh at as someone speeds by in a blur.

Until this is addressed, it would be irresponsible and downright dangerous to put less visible and less safe vehicles on the road.

City council should vote down the current proposal for golf carts but not close the book on the concept.

If the city is serious about this plan it should develop a comprehensive plan that would address safety and answer the many questions surrounding the issue.

How many people are interested in driving golf carts here? What would they use them for? What would it do to traffic flow on Park Avenue or Second Street? How have other cities handled golf carts? What level of enforcement would there be to ensure drivers are licensed and in vehicles that are street legal? Are there certain routes that could be used to minimize the impact?

City leaders should look at every option to bring people into Ironton and create a unique niche here in southern Ohio. Golf carts may be a part of that future after the issue is thoroughly researched to determine the pros and cons.

For now, citizens need to remember that these vehicles are illegal and have no place on the roads.


Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCaldwell_IT.