Hancock County

Kids illegally driving golf carts are DDs for their parents, Bay councilman says

Golf carts
Golf carts Sun Herald file photo

Bay St. Louis Councilman Lonnie Falgout said Tuesday he does not believe the Bay St. Louis administration is enforcing regulations on low-speed vehicles.

Before he was elected Ward 6 councilman, Falgout said, golf cart safety was a concern of his for many years.

"We must ensure the safety of all people in this city, regardless of if they're visitors, tourists or our regular people," he said.

Falgout said prior councils had discussed the matter "for years."

"This current city council has demanded these laws be enforced," he said. "But to this day, it has been to no avail. Under the tenure of this mayor (Les Fillingame), we have asked numerous times to enforce state laws and regulations. Under Chief DeNardo and current Chief Daren Freeman, we are still as a police department and administration not ensuring the safety of our individuals and visitors."

Falgout said many residents and visitors of Bay St. Louis enjoy having low-speed vehicles, but choose not to obey city laws.

In the past three months, Falgout said, business owners and other pedestrians visited the area.

"We have seen children driving golf carts with parents on the back drinking beer," Falgout said. "We have seen golf carts parked on the sidewalk and in neighborhood areas. Recently, we saw one flipped over with a 12-year-old child."

Three weeks ago, Falgout said, he was sitting at the Purple Banana and personally witnessed "three kids driving, three adults drinking and a Bay St. Louis policeman waved to them."

"Enforcement of all this is very plain and simple," Falgout said. "We must ensure and demand that our police department take immediate action, stopping the breaking of these laws. We're going to end up eventually losing a life and I hope it does not become a child. It is the administration's responsibility to ensure the police department does their job, which they have chosen not to do."

Falgout said the ordinance that is in state legislation now has nothing to do with the laws on the books.

"The laws on the books are very simple, you must wear a seatbelt, you cannot drink and drive, you cannot have a child under 16 years of age (drive), but we choose to ignore it," Falgout said. "I urge Chief Freeman and incoming Mayor Mike Favre that upon July 1, this become a priority."

Fillingame said Thursday the administration has "always enforced the safety of people on golf carts and demanded that drivers be licensed and insured."

"We've never allowed kids to continue to drive golf carts," he said. "They are targeted as a stop and the issue is taken up with their parents. If he (Falgout) saw the kids driving and parents drinking, it should have been reported. It's his duty as a Bay St. Louis official to make the police aware."

Fillingame said the administration and police officers will continue to use the same protocol when it comes to low-speed vehicles.

Those vehicles must be street-ready, occupants must wear seat belts and drivers must have valid driver's licenses, Fillingame said.

"You can't break laws like driving under the influence," he said. "People are required to uphold all current traffic laws we enforce."

Freeman said safety should and always will be the police department's focus.

"I've been in contact with Sen. (Philip) Moran to push local and private legislation regarding golf carts for the city of Bay St. Louis," he said. "I will continue working with them and hope to present something to the council after the legislative session convenes."

Fillingame said if the current council "demanded" the administration to address golf carts, then he "challenges" Falgout to show him where the council took "official action" on the way the administration enforced golf cart usage.

"The insinuation that we're not concerned is ludicrous," Fillingame said. "Our police department is completely focused on ensuring safety and would never turn their heads to anything in the safety protocols they enforce."

Freeman said anyone who observes any illegal activity involving low-speed vehicles is urged to contact central dispatch at 228-255-9191.