By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Town Council will consider amending the rules that permit golf carts to operate on roadways during their upcoming September 12th, meeting at 6:30PM at Town Hall.
According to Town Manger Michael Cramer, "Over the past several years the Town has seen an increase in the number of golf carts registered in Carolina Beach. Along with those registrations have developed concerns with the safety and use of golf carts throughout the community."
Carolina Beach adopted their own regulations years ago. 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.
Cramer explained, "The police department has seen an increase in the number of violations issued over the last year, parking has become a concern and general safety issues regarding the use of golf carts has increased. In an effort to help resolve some of these issues the Town Council has discussed various ways of changing the Town's ordinance to improve the safety of these vehicles."
Last month the Council discussed a proposal that would increase requirements for safety features including seat belts, lights, turn signals and other features. They also discussed the possibility of phasing out the use of golf carts over a number of years eventually banning their use entirely by January 1, 2020, and only permitting state licensed and inspected vehicles referred to as "Low-speed vehicles" which are required by state law to meet stronger rules governing safety including lights, seat belts, license plates, vehicle identification numbers (VIN), turn signals and state inspections.
The Council did not reach a consensus to support phasing out the use of golf carts.
The proposal they will consider at the September 12th, meeting sets new definitions for carts and Low-speed vehicles. A cart is defined as, "A vehicle designed and manufactured for operation on a golf course for sporting or recreational purposes and that is not capable of exceeding speeds of 20 miles per hour."
A Low-speed vehicle is defined as, "A four wheeled electric vehicle whose top speed is greater than 20 miles per hour but less than 25 miles per hour."
The proposal states, "Carts shall only be driven on roads posted 35 miles per hour or less. This does not prohibit a cart from crossing a road or street at an intersection where the road or street being crossed has a posted speed limit of more than 35 miles per hour."
Carts will still be required to have liability insurance coverage and "Drivers of carts shall stay to the far right of the traveled portion of the road and yield the right-of-way to overtaking motor vehicles."
The proposed amendment also includes a requirement that carts be equipped with headlights, tail lights and turn signals. Carts will also be required to have at least one fixed operational mirror so the driver can see behind the cart and no one will be allowed to stand on a golf cart while it is in operation. Also, the operator can only permit the appropriate amount of people that the cart is designed to carry.
Operators must be at least 16 years of age and possess a valid driver's license.
The proposed ordinance states, "Any person who operates a golf cart on public streets and roads must adhere to all applicable State and local laws, regulations and ordinances, including but not limited to those banning the possession and use of alcoholic beverages, and all other illegal drugs. In addition, no golf cart containing any open container of alcohol shall be operated on public roads."
The proposal also states, "Seat belts are required for every person seated on the golf cart. Seat belts must be worn by all passengers including children" and, "All required safety equipment must be installed to NCDOT Specifications and in place before the golf cart is registered with the town."
The operator of the golf cart shall comply with all traffic rules and regulations adopted by the State of North Carolina and the Town of Carolina Beach which governs the operation of motor vehicles.
Another portion of the proposed ordinance covers Low-speed vehicles.
The operation of a low-speed vehicle is authorized with the following restrictions:
(a) A low-speed vehicle may be operated only on streets and highways where the posted speed limit is 35 miles per hour or less. This does not prohibit a low-speed vehicle from crossing a road or street at an intersection where the road or street being crossed has a posted speed limit of more than 35 miles per hour.
(b) A low-speed vehicle shall be equipped with headlamps, stop lamps, turn signal lamps, tail lamps, reflex reflectors, parking brakes, rearview mirrors, windshields, windshield wipers, speedometer, seat belts, and a vehicle identification number.
(c) A low-speed vehicle shall be registered and insured with the North Carolina Department of Transportation in accordance with G.S. 20-50 and G.S. 20-30.
(d) The North Carolina Department of Transportation may prohibit the operation of low-speed vehicles on any road or highway if it determines that the prohibition is necessary in the interest of safety.
(e) Low-speed vehicles must comply with the safety standards in 49 C.F.R. § 571.500.
All golf carts and Low-speed vehicles will continue to be required to obtain a permit from the Town that is affixed to left driver's side of the vehicle.
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