Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014
By Kathy Thompson
Underage drivers rattle Rockford
  ROCKFORD - Village officials on Tuesday night discussed underage youth illegally driving four-wheelers in town.
Mayor Amy Joseph told council members she is tired of fielding complaints about the issue.
"These kids are getting out of control," she said. "All they're doing is riding around town."
Police Chief Paul May was not at the meeting but this morning told The Daily Standard he has received about three complaints of underage four-wheel drivers in the past three weeks.
Residents are legally allowed to drive golf carts, snowmobiles and three- or four-wheelers in town if they have a valid driver's license, drive less than 20 mph, obey traffic laws and stay off Main Street, May said. The law has been in effect for seven years, he added.
"I did get a couple of complaints, but I think some of the activity is happening in the evening hours or when we don't have an officer on duty," May said. "I do know that when I get a complaint, it's investigated."
Violators initially are warned, the chief said, adding he usually first speaks to the youngster or a parent.
"I give them a verbal warning," he said. "The next incident will be a citation to juvenile court if the driver is underage and the confiscation of the vehicle."
Underage drivers found guilty in court can be subject to three days in jail, May said.
May and Joseph said they are concerned "a few are going to ruin it for many."
"Right now we have about 40 golf carts in the village that are all valid drivers and obey the laws," May said. "I don't want the few breaking the laws to ruin it for those who are driving their carts to the park. But I think we have a few parents in town who seem to be letting their children drive. That's got to stop."
May said the problem should not be an issue in Rockford.
"Everyone knows the rules, and if they don't, all they have to do is call us or ask," he said.
In other action Tuesday, council members learned a stop sign on the east side of Walnut Street at Franklin Street will be moved back about 10 feet to improve safety for students driving to school.
Village administrator Jeff Long said there also will be a crosswalk painted at the three-way stop. Work on the sign will begin next week.
Last month, resident Robert Burns asked council members to improve the intersection of Walnut and Franklin streets for safety reasons. He stated students driving to school were turning too sharply from Franklin Street onto Walnut Street, causing driving hazards for other cars approaching the stop sign on Walnut Street.
Councilman Gary Fox, who is on the village's safety committee, on Tuesday said he stood at the intersection and witnessed drivers taking the turn sharply and noted "there is going to be an accident."
Council member Gene Steiner said the issue boils down to enforcement. Fellow councilman John Dooley agreed but added that moving the sign "is a good start."
Council members also heard second reading of an ordinance levying assessments for delinquent water bills. Village clerk Lisa Kuhn said seven water bills are delinquent totaling about $2,400, but she will not have the actual amount until the third reading of the ordinance at the July 15 meeting.
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