Golf carts could be allowed on city streets

Published 3:55 pm Friday, November 21, 2008

Motorized carts may become a more acceptable form of transportation in Bainbridge, as city leaders are considering new rules for their usage.

Under current laws, motorized carts used for recreation cannot be driven on any road regulated by the Georgia Department of Transportation or on any streets within Bainbridge city limits, City Manager Chris Hobby explained.

In the absence of local rules, state law states that all moving vehicles designed to travel on roads must be registered and tagged, Hobby said.

The proposed ordinance defines motorized carts as having at least three wheels, weighing less than 1,300 pounds and unable to go faster than 20 miles per hour.

A 2002 Georgia law allows such low-speed vehicles to use a full traffic lane but not pass other vehicles. It also states that low-speed vehicles traveling on highways be equipped with an amber-colored strobe light for safety reasons.

City Councilwoman Roslyn Palmer said she asked Hobby to prepare a sample ordinance governing the usage of motorized carts because she believes they could be used as alternative transportation by people affected by higher gasoline prices. Both Palmer and Councilman Greg Waddell envisioned golf carts being a leisurely activity for families.

Rules would apply to carts’ usage

However, Palmer acknowledged the carts’ usage could still be limited because the Georgia Department of Transportation would have to designate where they could cross state routes.

The sample rules presented by Hobby would still require drivers of golf carts, ATVs and similar vehicles to be at least 16 years old and possess a valid driver’s license. Fifteen-year-olds could drive if accompanied by a licensed adult.

Lake Douglas Road, the nature trail at the Earle May Boat Basin, sidewalks, city parks and any road where the speed limit exceeds 35 miles per hour would also be off-limits to the low-speed vehicles, according to the proposal. Night driving would also be forbidden as a safety concern, and the vehicles’ owners would have to pay a $15 registration fee, Hobby said. Penalties would also apply if the rules were violated.

If Bainbridge’s ordinance were passed, motorized wheelchairs used by disabled persons would be allowed to travel on city streets and sidewalks, Hobby said.

ATVs would still be off-road only

Although similar in design, golf carts and all-terrain vehicles are treated differently under state law, said Georgia House Rep. Chuck Sims. Sims represents Coffee and Atkinson counties in South Georgia and was chairman of a 2005 House study committee on ATV safety. Therefore, while no local government could allow ATVs on public roads, some, like affluent Peachtree City in Fayette County, have passed ordinances permitting golf carts on streets and sidewalks with certain usage conditions applying, Sims said.

“The [legal] difference is that you get in a golf cart and on an ATV, which is also considered different than a motorcycle,” Sims said.

Peachtree City allows children aged 12-14 to drive when accompanied by a parent, grandparent or legal guardian.

Sims said he has serious concerns about the safety of children using ATVs due to numerous injuries and deaths associated with their use by unlicensed drivers. Legislation he sponsored, which would have required safety training and helmet use for ATV drivers, among other requirements, failed on the House floor in 2005.