As summer approaches, Brunswick beach towns are heating up laws, rules and overall passenger safety for low-speed vehicles and golf carts.
Local leaders and governing bodies are urging residents and visitors to follow the rules, make sure drivers have their license and buckle up.
North Carolina General Statue 20-121.1 requires low-speed vehicles to be registered, annually inspected, insured and equipped with working:
• Stop lamps
• Turn signal lamps
• Tail lamps
• Reflex reflectors
• Parking brakes
• Rearview mirrors
• Windshield wipers
• Seat belts
• Vehicle identification number
State law defines a low-speed vehicle as, “A four-wheeled electric vehicle whose top speed is greater than 20 miles per hour but less than 25 miles per hour,” however, it defines a golf cart 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.”
“If they’re going 35 [or] 40 miles an hour down the road in some of these hopped-up carts — they’re just terribly dangerous,” Holden Beach Commissioner Rick Smith said at the May 16 Holden Beach Board of Commissioners meeting. “They’re not designed to go that speed.”
The North Carolina General Statute 160A-300.6 notes that, “A city may, by ordinance, regulate the operation of golf carts, as defined in G.S. 20-4.01(12b), on any public street, road, or highway where the speed limit is 35 miles per hour or less within its municipal
limits or on any property owned or leased by the city.”
“By ordinance, a city may require the registration of golf carts, charge a fee for the registration, specify who is authorized to operate golf carts and specify the required equipment, load limits and the hours and methods of operation of golf carts. No person less than 16 years of age may operate a golf cart on a public street, road or highway,” the statue continues.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation has a golf cart guidance for towns to use, if they want, that allows a municipality to regulate golf carts on any street but it must follow statute 160A-300.6.
Golf cart rulings can change throughout each town.
For example, the Town of Carolina Shores in September 2022 enacted a new ordinance with new rules for golf carts traveling on roads owned by the town.
Under the new rules, folks operating golf carts on town roads are required to have a valid driver’s license, have liability insurance on the golf cart and use lights and turn signals (if a golf cart isn’t equipped with turn signals, hand signals must be used).
Carolina Shores golf cart owners are also required to register their golf cart with the town to receive a permit to be placed on the cart. Owners have to show proof of liability insurance to obtain a permit.
The golf cart rules only applied to Town of Carolina Shores streets and roads. Golf carts are still not allowed to travel on state-owned roads in the town.
Ocean Isle Beach Chief of Police Ken Bellamy told the towns Board of Commissioners at their May 9 meeting that he is able to write tickets to 16- and 17-year-old golf cart drivers because it is a motor vehicle.
With Spring Break recently ending and summer coming soon, he explained that underaged golf cart drivers and high school-aged golf car drivers have been and will be a large issue in the town.
He added that individuals between 16- and 18-year-old tend to create more problems for police officers and give them a difficult time.
“Call 9-1-1, it’s not a problem,” he said. “We want to address these issues before they get out of hand…”
He noted that he can write citations to parents if a driver is under the age of 16 — if they can prove that the parent knowingly allowed the juvenile to drive.
“Kids are in danger, adults are in danger and people think golf carts are toys,” Ocean Isle Beach resident Deb Eckert said. “… It’s a dangerous toy.”
For the North Carolina General Statute 20-121.1 PDF on the operation of golf carts and low speed vehicles can be located at https://www.ncleg.gov/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/PDF/BySection/Chapter_20/GS_20-121.1.pdf
More information on golf cart and low speed vehicle laws can be found at https://golfcarts.org/north-carolina-state-golf-cart-and-lsv-laws/
Savanna Tenenoff is the staff writer at The Brunswick Beacon. Feel free to reach out with comments, questions and tips at email@example.com.
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