Underage drivers a point of contention for county

Complaints about underage drivers or improper permitting on utility vehicles and golf carts at the county lake prompted Marion County Commissioners to speak with the park and lake superintendent at the July 15 meeting.

Commission chairman Kent Becker said that because of this problem, law enforcement should have greater enforcement, at least on weekends.

“It is an issue,” said Isaac Hett, superintendent.

Becker added: “What I am concerned about is the small children, about 8- or 9-year-olds going five miles per hour (on the streets). We need to start setting an example before someone gets killed.”

Hett said there were deputies at the lake two weeks ago on Friday and Saturday night, and last weekend on Friday.

In addition to seeing more utility vehicles and golf carts driving around the lake, Hett said he’s doing a lot more talking to those individuals.

“Since I have been (superintendent),” Hett said, “I’ve sold 21 permits, and spoke with 18 people who weren’t from the county. Six of those were underage drivers who were all from Marion County.”

In talking to individuals without a permit, Hett said they all said the same thing, which was they didn’t know there were any rules. All of them gave the same reason, too, which was that they saw other people driving the utility vehicles and thought it was legal.

Commissioner Dianne Novak said maybe one solution would be to put up sign with highlighted safety rules.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said: “I think we need to put up lots of signs, Dianne.”

One of the candidates, Dave Crofoot, suggested having Jeanne Wilden, who is responsible for lake residents getting a utility bill, to have a letter inside the bill to let them know about the rules and regulations about operating utility vehicles.

Becker said: “I think we need to have those signs at the main entrances.”

Novak added that while it’s been busy the last couple of weekends, she thinks it will slow down with the recent warning of blue-green algae blooms. With the blue-green algae warning, all contact with the lake water, to include boating and fishing, needs to be avoided.

Hett said that whenever anyone gets a permit, they are also given a rundown of the rules as to who is operating the utility vehicle or golf cart.

“This is still a new program,” Becker said, “and when new rules are in effect, it can be resolved with more information.”

The commissioners also looked at possible consequences for those driving ATVs, UTVs or golf carts without a permit.

Becker said citations could help.

Novak said this problem reminds her of the muddy roads and people driving down them when asked not to.

“Here it is 20 years later, and people are still driving down muddy roads—it’s the same thing,” she said.

Dallke explained how dangerous these utility vehicles can be citing a 13-year-old boy turning over an ATV and hitting his head on the concrete.

“It can be dangerous, and maybe one of the restrictions could be to wear a helmet,” he said.

The following are the rules and regulations associated with golf carts and ATVs and UTVs which Hett said he reviews with people when they receive a permit.

the vehicle must have a Marion County Park and Lake permit sticker to operated inside Marion County Park and Lake.

the operator of the vehicle must have a valid driver’s license.

passengers are not allowed to ride in the bucket, and/or standing on the back of the vehicle. Each passenger must be sitting in a seat.

if operating between sundown and sunrise, the vehicle must have working lights.

if the vehicle cannot reach the posted speed limits, it must have a slow-moving vehicle sign.

the vehicles are to be operated on designated roads and alleyways only. Driving on the grass or offloading is strictly prohibited.