Golf cart traffic in St. Marys, in Camden County Georgia has become an issue as this article* points out the necessity for laws to regulate the operation of these vehicles and ensure pedestrian safety.
New Golf Cart Ordinance Will Follow State Laws
St. Marys public safety committee members are working on amending the municipality’s golf cart ordinance so it can follow state regulations and increase safety.
Councilor Greg Bird, who owns a golf cart store and is the chairman of the committee, said the current golf cart ordinance has two problems.He said the first issue with the city’s ordinance is that it does not reflect the state law. He said the city ordinance identifies golf carts [or motorized carts] and a low speed moving vehicle as being the same. But they are two different vehicles, Bird said. In its new ordinance, the city will distinguish between the two kinds of vehicles, Bird said. The state has the two different sections under its law so it can distinguish between the vehicles. Bird said the police department gave several tickets to golf cart drivers for not having licenses even though the state does not require golf cart drivers to have licenses.
The low speed moving vehicles are larger than golf carts and can go up to 25 mph, unlike a golf cart that only goes up to 20 mph, Bird said. He said the new ordinance will make the distinction between both vehicles, so everyone will be able to follow the state rules.
The state of Georgia separates the two vehicles by requiring that a low speed moving vehicle driver have insurance. But the Georgia does not require a golf cart to have insurance, and it allows for low speed motor vehicles to travel on roads.
However, St. Marys’ current ordinance does require insurance for golf carts because both vehicles are viewed as the same under the law, which can be confusing for police officers and residents.
Bird said the second issue has to do with how the city can get golf carts from one side of the city to the other without breaking any rules. He said the committee members and other city officials, such as City Manager Bill Shanahan, are looking at multi-use paths because golf carts are not legal on sidewalks.
He also said the public safety committee is looking at the possibility of developing the multiuse paths that are used for bikes on Point Peter Road because they could possibly accommodate golf carts. Bird notes these paths are larger than regular sidewalks, which makes them suitable for golf carts. Multiuse paths would allow residents in the Douglas Drive area to drive golf carts to downtown, he added.
“This is not a perfect solution yet, but golf carts are too slow to put on a road where the speed limit is 45 miles an hour or faster,” Bird said. “We don’t want to put golf carts where they would have a big conflict with automobiles. We want to figure out how to move them safely.”
Bird said the next committee meeting will be at 5 p.m., April 10 at City Hall, and residents are invited to come. He said the public safety committee will be looking at the golf cart ordinance, multiuse paths and other issues associated with golf carts during the meeting.
Councilor Gull Weaver also said she had a few problems with the ordinance such as the $250 fee for golf cart drivers who are caught driving the vehicles on sidewalks. She said the fee does not seem fair for a first offense.
“There are a lot of things we are going to change, and [we will] figure out the best way to do it,” she said. “We want to treat them [golf carts and low speed moving vehicle] as vehicles, and you have to have licensed drivers, and kids can’t drive them all over the place because it’s not responsible.”
City Manager Bill Shanahan said it is important to amend the ordinance so everyone can understand the law and protect the residents. But he said he does not want the ordinance to make it difficult for residents to use golf carts. Shanahan also said drivers have to be responsible when driving in the city and watch for golf carts.
“The other day I was driving in a golf cart and I had a car run a stop sign and come in front of me, and I hit my brakes,” he said. “If I didn’t hit my brakes the car would have hit me. It works both ways. We want our citizens to be safe when driving golf carts.”
Councilor Deborah Hase said the golf carts are a part of the community. She said St. Marys needs to remain a walking and golf cart community because it helps maintain the integrity of the city.
She said it is good to be able travel in the city by “foot, bike or golf cart.” She said she supports expanding sidewalks to accommodate golf carts and to get them off the streets if possible.
“If we can make [sidewalks] bike-path/golf cart-path [friendly] that would help because it would save people’s gas, and it would help in a lot of ways,” she said.
*By Greg Jones, The Camden County Tribune & Georgian Newspaper