Monday, September 25, 2023

Carolina Beach plans to make golf carts illegal on public streets

Some residents arrived at the forum in golf carts -- one of the topics of the night's discussion. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
Golf carts lined up at a Carolina Beach council meeting on the issue in 2019. (Port City Daily/File)

CAROLINA BEACH — An alternative way to get around in a local beach town will be phased out due to safety concerns.

At its March 14 meeting, Carolina Beach Town Council signed off on an ordinance to take golf carts off its streets in 2027. Starting July 1, only existing permit holders will be allowed to renew their golf cart licenses through the town; on Jan. 1, 2028, the vehicles will become illegal on public streets.

The carts have been buzzing around Carolina Beach streets since the council allowed them in 2008. Assistant Town Manager Ed Parvin told the council that the use of the vehicles has become more concerning as the town’s population grows. There are more than 500 carts registered townwide right now.

In 2017 the council adopted requirements that golf carts be equipped with headlights, tail lights, turn signals and seat belts. It also made a distinction between low-speed vehicles registered with the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles and golf carts at that time.

The main difference between a run-of-the-mill golf cart and a low-speed vehicle is that while the town currently registers golf carts, they are not inspected. Also, there is no rolling insurance check and the vehicles do not have identification numbers or license plates. 

After golf carts are banned, they could be converted to low-speed vehicles with a state enforcement mechanism attached.

Carolina Beach Police Chief Vic Ward told council the current town tracking of the vehicles creates enforcement problems. With no identification number, it can be difficult to determine who owns a vehicle when an unlicensed minor is driving one. The lack of license plates also emboldens people to drive without seatbelts, with small children in their laps, he added, and the main cause of golf cart collisions, which has resulted in cases of people being thrown from the carts, is impairment.

Councilman Mike Hoffer said his wife was hit by a drunk golf cart driver four years ago. There was damage to the Hoffers’ vehicle, but the cart was uninsured.

When they called their insurance company, they assumed the uninsured driver insurance would cover the damage . Because the vehicle was not a registered car, the insurer required them to pay their comprehensive deductible. Hoffer said the driver at fault stepped in and paid the deductible.

Ward also noted the town has no employee or system for inspecting carts, even though that was included in the original ordinance. 

Councilman Joe Benson commented it appears the 2008 council adopted the ordinance without being able to follow its own public safety standards.

“I generally am supportive of eventually getting to this place where they’re registered for a lot of these reasons,” Hoffer said. “The fact that they are inspected, that the police officers can take one glance at the things, see a sticker on the back of that and know it’s been inspected, and that it’s most likely that the insurance is still being paid.”

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