Riding golf carts and similar recreational vehicles within city limits may be safer in New Braunfels with additional fines, rules and regulations added to the city ordinance.

The New Braunfels City Council voted to approve the first reading of an item during their March 27 regular meeting to make amendments to an ordinance allowing recreational off-highway vehicles and utility task vehicles on designated public streets.

“In 2019, the Texas Legislature allowed other types of vehicles to be on public streets, but it's at the discretion of the local government as to what they would allow,” said Greg Malatek, public works director for the city of New Braunfels. “So there was requests from residents to bring on some some vehicles so discussions with council and the transportation and traffic advisory board [took place].”

If approved during a second reading, ATV’s and sand rails will be prohibited on public streets except when crossing certain streets, as authorized by the Texas Transportation Code.

In the current ordinance, operational headlamps, tail lamps, side reflectors, parking brake and rearview mirrors are already required for ROV’s or UTV’s to drive within designated public streets. Night time driving of the vehicles will remain prohibited. Additional equipment that would be recommended in the proposed ordinance are an operational horn and Texas license plate.

Malatek said the city will discuss offering a grace period for drivers of off-highway recreational vehicles to become aware of the changes to the city ordinance.

“We can have that conversation with the police department and talk to Chief Lane as far as giving any kind of a grace period or warnings if they stopped somebody to kind of let them know,” Malatek said.

Currently the ordinance only allows recreational vehicles to travel 2 miles from where it is normally parked, but the amended ordinance would allow the off-highway vehicle to travel 5 miles. The ROV’s or UTV’s have to be driven by someone with a valid drivers license and not on sidewalks or hiking trails.

Higher penalties would also be put into place, increasing the minimum fine to $500 for a second offense instead of waiting for a third offense to be fined. If the violation is made of having a passenger under the age of 4 on the recreational vehicle, the minimum fine would be $250 instead of $100. According to Malatek, there were around nine violations of the current ordinance that resulted in tickets in the past year.

District 6 Council Member James Blakey said that he is most concerned about enforcing regulations that increase the safety of children passengers on the recreational vehicles.

“The biggest concern for us is, I think most of us up here, has been children," Blakey said. "I've just seen a litter of children on the back of those, and I'll always keep complaining about that.”

If the second reading of the proposed ordinance is approved during the April 10 regular council meeting, a communication plan would be carried out by city staff to inform residents of the changes that have been put into place.