After two extended debates in recent months about allowing utility vehicles, ATVs and electric golf carts to operate on residential city streets, the Jackson Board of Aldermen seems to be poised to take some action at its Aug. 15 meeting.
City Attorney Curtis Poore presented four proposed city ordinances (exhibits A through D) during study session Aug. 1 for the aldermen to eventually approve or reject.
“Exhibit A” contained definitions of the vehicles in question. They are summarized as follows:
• “All-terrain vehicle” (ATV) means any motorized vehicle manufactured exclusively for off-highway use which is 50 inches or less in width, weighs 600 pounds or less, travels on three or more low-pressure tires with a seat designed to be straddled by the operator and handlebars for steering control.
• “Golf cart” means a motor vehicle designed and manufactured for operation on a golf course for recreational purposes and is not capable of exceeding speeds of 20 miles per hour.
• “Motorized play vehicle” means any mini-motorcycle, pocket bike, pocket motorcycle or any other vehicle that may transport a person or persons in excess of five miles per hour and is self-propelled by a motor that is not otherwise defined by the Missouri Statues or this Code as a motor vehicle, motorcycle, bicycle or motorized bicycle.
• “Recreational off-highway vehicle” means any motorized vehicle manufactured exclusively for off-highway use which is more than 50 but less than 80 inches in width, weighing 3,500 pounds or less, traveling on four or more non-highway tires and which may have access to ATV trails.
• “Utility vehicle” (UTV) means any motorized vehicle manufactured for off-highway use which is between 50 and 80 inches in width, weighing 3,500 pounds or less, traveling on four or six wheels, and is used primarily for landscaping, lawn care or maintenance purposes.
It is likely that the aldermen will approve these definitions.
Currently, the only vehicles on these lists that may be used on Jackson city streets are utility vehicles. Because no city ordinance prohibits their use, they must be used following rules and regulations set by state law.
In the past, residents have requested that utility vehicles (and electric golf carts) be allowed on residential streets in Jackson. UTVs are allowed on city streets in Perryville, Ste. Genevieve and Sikeston.
It will be up to the aldermen to choose among the remaining three ordinances.
Exhibit B is an amended city ordinance that would prohibit any of these vehicles from operating on city streets.
Exhibit C is an amended city ordinance that would prohibit recreational off-road vehicles but would allow utility vehicles on city streets.
Exhibit D is a new ordinance that would allow utility vehicles on city streets with certain restrictions (such as requiring seat belts, headlights, turn signals, insurance, age restrictions for drivers, etc.)
“Under all these ordinances, all-terrain vehicles — what are commonly known as four-wheelers — golf carts, and other motorized play vehicles will remain prohibited for use on city streets,” Poore stated.
If the board takes no action, current city ordinances allow these vehicles to be used on city streets only for removal of debris or snow. State law also allows recreational off-highway vehicles and UTVs to be operated on city streets of less than 45 mph for agricultural purposes, industrial on-premises purposes and limited circumstances for handicapped people, Poore added.
Jackson Police Chief James Humphreys strongly opposed changing city ordinances to allow any of these vehicles on the street, saying manufacturers of these vehicles do not recommend street use.
Humphreys said. “I love these things. But my decision is based solely on safety.”
Humphreys’ concern is not for someone taking a little drive in their cul-de-sac or in their quiet neighborhood.
“It’s that family of four or five that’s on one of our city streets,” he explained, “and that Ford F-250 [pickup] that runs a stop sign and hits that side-by-side that has not been crash-tested, and does not have air bags — and that’s going to be a disaster.
“God forbid that ever happens, but if it does, it’s not going to be something that I can live with, knowing we made a conscious decision to allow these on city streets.
“I’ve seen a lot of auto accidents in my 30 years as a law enforcement officer. Thirty or 40 miles an hour can do a lot of damage to a regular vehicle, let alone a side-by-side. It’s not designed for this kind of impact with larger vehicles.”
Fire Chief Jason Mouserechoed Humphrey’s sentiments. “As Chief Humphreys said, our recommendation is based solely upon manufacturers’ recommendations. We’re extremely reluctant to endorse an expanded use. … The job that we do, all the equipment we use, if we don’t go by the manufacturers’ recommendations, we can get employees hurt.”
“I’m not in favor of [approving] anything that’s intended for off-road purposes,” said Alderman Katy Liley. “That’s like us saying we know better that the manufacturers.”
Alderman Joe Bob Baker said he has deep respect for the opinions of Chief Humphreys and Mouser. But, manufacturers such as Polaris and Gator are not going to recommend their vehicles be used on roadways because of liability issues,” he said. Sikeston and Perryville, each cities of about 15,000 population like Jackson, allow them and “it doesn’t seem like they have much problem with them,” Baker said. He would like to see them approved with certain restrictions, such as limited to roads of 30 mph, and drivers should be at least 18 and have driver’s licenses.
“The biggest factor [against them] is the other vehicle,” Baker continued. But the danger of other vehicles has not stopped the city from allowing walking, bicycles, motorized bicycles and motorcycles on city streets.
Alderman David Reiminger said, “I get the snow removal. They’re extremely handy for that. I just don’t like them on city streets.”
Alderman David Hitt said Jackson has more traffic than Sikeston, Perryville or Ste. Genevieve, so there is a greater risk for accidents in Jackson. He said the tires are not designed for use on roads, and they lack other safety features.
Alderman Wanda Young said she would like more information before voting on the issue.