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Effort underway to make utility vehicles legal on city streets

Utility vehicles
Posted at 10:18 PM, Aug 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-09 12:54:07-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — There's no question about golf carts being allowed on certain city streets. However, it's not as clear-cut when it comes to utility vehicles, which are larger, more equipped, and inherently safer.

"Every UTV that we sell has a shoulder strap," said According to Matt Werkhoven, general manager of Corpus Christi Cycle Plaza and Joyride Rental Co. on Padre Island. "It has a waist strap. You know; it's certified seat belts on the unit that guarantee a safe operation."

After years of driving utility vehicles on the island, residents recently complained about being stopped and ticketed by police. It turns out that officers did nothing wrong -- the current city ordinance in Corpus Christi allows for golf carts to be operated on streets in certain areas of the city with speed limits no more than 35 miles per hour. However, UTVs are not included. A recent change in state law now allows cities to regulate utility vehicles in the same way.

Werkhoven says there are benefits to making UTVs street legal.

"I think for tourism, for just the people that live out here and anybody that is in the surrounding community. A lot of people have UTVs. They have them for ranches. They have them for work. They have them for just various reasons," he told KRIS 6 News.

Utility vehicles were a hot topic during public comment at this week's Island Strategic Action Committee meeting, Police addressed committee members and urged the community to make their voices heard about the issue. Werkhoven hopes the recent talks are enough to motivate the city to update the ordinance.

"This change is hopefully going to put to rest the endless debate of, 'Are UTVs legal? Are they allowed? Is it a gray area?" Werkhoven questioned.

At this point, it's unclear if or when any change will happen. It would have to be recommended by city staff and then approved by the council. People in favor of the change hope the city will take action by September 1 when the new state law on utility vehicles goes into effect.