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Handicapped Siblings Win Right to Use Golf Cart in City

March 19, 1986

PAW PAW, Mich. (AP) _ A man who won a state law allowing his handicapped children to use a golf cart as transportation but couldn’t get an ordinance allowing the vehicles in his hometown claimed final victory by having the cart licensed as a moped.

Eugene Shipley had his modified golf cart inspected Tuesday by state police, who said it met the requirements to be licensed as a moped.

Shipley, whose bid to have voters approve the use of off-road vehicles was rejected by Paw Paw residents March 10, said police approval of the golf cart was a sweet victory.

″I had one intention in mind: that I would provide transportation for my two handicapped, young adults no matter what I legally had to do. I have done it.″

David Shipley, 23, and his sister, Margaret, 21, suffer from a genetic disorder that has limited their mobility. The two used a golf cart to get around the southwest Michigan village until May, when village officials told the family the cart no longer could be used.

Shipley’s case prompted state Rep. James R. Middaugh to sponsor a bill allowing but not requiring municipalities to pass ordinances for handicapped people to operate off-road vehicles on streets and sidewalks.

Local officials subsequently refused Shipley’s request to pass an ordinance, and voters did likewise.

″When the voters shot me out of the seat, the handicapped lost,″ Shipley said. ″My kids didn’t lose; they are riding today.″

Village officials said they were worried about the village’s legal liability if an off-road vehicle was involved in an accident. Village attorney John McNeil said police licensing of the golf cart as a moped eases that concern, but still presents potential safety problems.

″This has taken the liability off the village since we didn’t pass an ordinance allowing (the cart) on our streets,″ McNeil said. ″They are now bound by laws which they weren’t before, so there are a lot of different aspects to look at. I have real concerns over their safety on the street.″

Village Councilman Claude Willsea said he still opposes the use of the golf cart on village streets.

″I am disappointed the cart was allowed to be registered,″ he said. ″This means that anyone can purchase this type of vehicle, modify it and put it on roadways. This can create some very serious and dangerous situations, and not for just village streets.″

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