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Council Concerned With Golf Cart Safety Issues

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Town of Carolina Beach allows for the use of golf carts with a Town issued permit to operate on roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or less. During the Town Council's Tuesday June 13th, meeting Councilman Steve Shuttleworth explained, "Golf carts... people are blowing up all over Town about golf carts. I'm getting lots of feedback."
Mayor Dan Wilcox said the issue is scheduled for the Council's August workshop meeting.

Shuttleworth said, "In August? What are we doing between now and then because now is when we have thousands of people in Town. We have golf carts all over the place. We've got kids falling out of them. We've got kids riding in them. Even Council members are seeing it and I see it all over. It's just crazy."

Town Manager Michael Cramer explained, "I can move them up if you would like. I have three items on each one of the workshops for the next three months."

Wilcox said, "I think the problem is we're in June, even if we move it up, by the time it gets to a workshop and it goes to Council it's going to be the end of the summer."

Shuttleworth asked about the requirements to operate a golf cart in Town.

Cramer explained, "Yes, you have to be 16 years or older and have a driver's license or have an individual who has a license, such as a parent, riding with you."

Shuttleworth said he's concerned with the safety issues related to kids driving carts around Town. He said, "I'm just suggesting that as a community between now and the end of the summer Michael I would hate to have to be making an action because there was an accident. I haven't seen it this bad in the past. I'm seeing them on Dow Road. I'm seeing them all over and seeing a lot of small, and I mean 10 and under, children sitting in the back seat, sitting in laps, babies on laps. I don't know what the issue is or what the enforcement is. If you guys think that's acceptable. It's just dangerous. Frankly I'm worried they are going to fall out in front of me and I'm going to hit them."

Carolina Beach Police Chief Chris Spivey said officers are seeing some violations and unsafe situations as well as carts parking in locations where they are not permitted.

Cramer explained, "Currently in our ordinance there are no restrictions dealing with the number of passengers in a golf cart or slow moving vehicle. However, our police do make judgement calls if it's a four passenger vehicle and there are eight people in it there's a problem and they will stop them for things like that. If it's a slow moving vehicle, as the Mayor said, there's only four seat belts, there should only be four individuals there.  Some of that is discretion. None of it is associated with what is in our ordinance."

Wilcox said, "We actually have three situations. We have golf carts and most of them don't have any of that safety equipment. We have slow moving vehicles that are state registered then we have slow moving vehicles that are not state registered. I don't know whether slow moving vehicles  that are not state registered fall under the same rules as the ones that are state registered."

Council member Leann Pierce said, "Let's clean it up."

Councilman Gary Doetsch said, "Can we just have some enhanced enforcement until we can get this in front of us at a workshop?"

Cramer said, "We have been doing that."

In Carolina Beach, a golf cart permit must be attached to the front, lower corner of the passenger side of the windshield of the golf cart.  

Currently the price for a permit is $10 per year. After July 1st, the cost for a permit will increase to $15.
No golf cart shall be driven without a permit.

The rules posted on the Town's website state:
• All persons who operate or ride upon golf carts do so at their own risk and must be observant to the safety of themselves, their passengers, other motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.
• The Town of Carolina Beach has no liability for permitting carts to be operated in the town.  The owner and operator of the cart are responsible for any liability involved in using a cart. Carts must have liability insurance coverage.
• Drivers of carts shall stay to the far right of the road and yield the right-of-way to overtaking motor vehicles.
• Cart operating between one half hour before sunrise and one half hour after sunset shall be equipped with and have in use headlights and reflectors located on the rear of the cart.
• Carts shall have at least one operational mirror allowing the operator to see behind the cart.
• No one is allowed to stand on the cart while it is in operation and may only have the appropriate number of passengers that it is designed to carry.
• The operator of the golf cart must possess a valid driver’s license or must have a driver's permit and be accompanied by a licensed driver.
• On town property or public right of ways, golf carts are only allowed to park in designated parking spaces. Golf carts parked outside of these designated areas are subject to parking penalty fees or removal by tow.
• North Carolina laws as found G.S. § 20-138, regarding use of alcoholic beverages apply to golf cart regulation in the Town of Carolina Beach.