Driving It Home 

City Council to discuss fines for minor vehicular offenses.

Local drivers should think twice about transporting kids in truck beds or driving with an open beer. Those offenses are already against state law, but the Memphis City Council could soon make them punishable by city ordinance, as well.

In a committee meeting last week, the council approved seven ordinances, mostly driving-related, in an attempt to generate revenue for city coffers. Council members will vote on the ordinances in a first reading at the full council meeting next week.

The new ordinances prohibit the use of low-speed vehicles, such as go-carts, on city streets, require drivers to give three feet of clearance when passing bicycles, and establish a penalty for making non-emergency 911 calls. One of them also prohibits school bus drivers from using a cell phone while transporting children.

"Officers already write tickets for these offenses under state law, but the majority of the money from fines is going to the state," said council member Reid Hedgepeth. "Now most of the money will go to the city."

Hedgepeth says fines for these offenses range from $50 to $150 per offense.

At a committee meeting last week, the council also discussed establishing a penalty for vehicle owners who allow an unlicensed driver to operate a motor vehicle. Though that's already a state law, council members voted against making it a city ordinance.

"The council members had some concern about parents not being able to train new drivers on the street before the child is a permitted driver. They didn't want parents to be ticketed and fined for that," said council analyst Juaness Keplinger.

There were also some concerns over the ordinance prohibiting low-speed vehicles on city streets. While council members want the law to apply to four-wheelers and go-carts, they want to ensure that it does not affect tractors.

"We're getting clarification on that to make sure you're still allowed to drive a tractor on streets. [Memphis Light, Gas & Water] needs to be able to drive their front-end loaders around the city," Hedgepeth said.

Though enforcing the laws locally could put more money into the city budget, Hedgepeth says he hopes that police officers will use discretion when handing out tickets, especially with the ordinance pertaining to bicyclists.

"If a bicyclist is riding on a two-lane road without a turning lane, it's going to be tough for a car to get around the bike if there's oncoming traffic," Hedgepeth said. "I hope police officers will use common sense on that. If they see someone practically run over a biker, they should give the driver a ticket."

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