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Street rules for ATVs, golf carts

By Staff | Aug 14, 2009

(Editor’s Note: An email generated by an Estherville resident posed a few questions leading to this article, dealing with the legality of golf carts and 4-wheelers that “tootle around neighborhoods.” Today’s article focuses on the use of All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) and golf carts.

While the wheels go round and round, not all vehicles are created equal in the sight of the Code of Iowa and Estherville City Code. Contrary to popular belief, there are specific guidelines regulating the rules of the road and what can be used for transportation.

Estherville Police Captain Brent Shatto said while golf carts are legal on streets and avenues in the city, individuals can only cross highways 9 and 4. “There must be a slow-moving sign or orange flag visible on the golf carts and there must be proof of liability insurance.” He added that individuals behind the wheel of the golf cart must be 16 years of age or older and a licensed driver. “All traffic vehicles must be obeyed,” he said, noting there are no license registration requirements for golf cars.

Section 212-312 in the city code addresses the operation of golf carts. Use is restricted between sunrise and sunset. The carts cannot be driven upon any city street that is a primary road extension through the municipality (highways 4 and 9).

Other citizens enjoy traveling through the city on ATVs. According to city code description, an ATV is a “motorized flotation-tire vehicle with not less than three low pressure tires, with not more than six low pressure tires, that is limited in engine displacement to less than 800 cubic centimeters and a total drive weight of less than 1,000 pounds and that has a seat or saddle designed to be straddled by the operator and handlebars for steering control.”

Shatto said ATVs must be registered with the Emmet County recorder’s office. These devices can be operated on city streets by persons possessing a valid Iowa Driver’s license and valid liability insurance. “ATVs cannot be operated on Highway 4 and 9, but ATV drivers can cross these two highways,” he explained

ATVs are not to be driven off-road in city parks, playgrounds or on any publicly owned property. He reminded ATVs can only be operated on private property with the owner’s consent, or while conducting snow removal, landscaping or some other maintenance activity.

“No ATV can be operated on sidewalks unless engaged in snow removal or maintenance activities,” Shatto said. “They cannot be driven on that portion of the street located between the curb line and sidewalk, or property line commonly referred to as parking unless for the purposes of removing snow or maintenance.” There is an exception here. ATVs are permitted along the south sidewalk from South First Street to West South First Street. ATV users must yield to pedestrians at all times.

Persons on ATVs must comply with all state and city driving laws including the noise ordinance and avoid careless operation. All ATVs must be outfitted with a lighted headlamp and taillight for increased safety and users must never leave a vehicle unattended while the motor is running or the keys are in the ignition.

“There are always a few that disrupt the lives of many when it comes to obeying the laws. But most do fairly well,” he said.

Shatto noted the specific hours of operations as the following listed in the city code: “ATVs shall not be operated anywhere within the city limits of the City of Estherville Sunday night through Thursday night between the hours of 11:30 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. not during the overnight hours of 1 a.m. through 5 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings. The only permitted operation during these hours shall be for routine snow removal.”

Fines have been established for those operating ATVs who violate the State of Iowa’s motor vehicle laws. “The first offense is a fine not less than $100; the second offense has a fine of not less than $200; and the third offense has a fine of not less than $500. Any offense after a third offense carries a fine of not less than $500,” Shatto explained.

For more information or answers to other questions concerning the use of golf carts and ATV within the city, contact Shatto at the police department by calling 712-362-3515.