Golf carts fit nicely with the pace of life many folks seek on St. Simons Island, but the sedans, SUVs and pickups that often stack up behind them should serve as a gentle reminder that not everyone is living on island time, Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering said.
“It’s common sense,” Doering said. “You pull over, you let ‘em go by. Most of them do. Most of them do the right thing and pull over, but not everybody.”
For those who still do not get it, there is the law. Those operating golf carts on a public thoroughfare are subject to all rules of the road that apply to conventional vehicles. There also are rules that apply specifically to “motorized carts” under state law, Doering said.
Vehicles defined as such cannot possess the power to travel faster than 20 mph, Doering said. Also, these motorized carts are not allowed on roadways where the posted speed limit is greater than 35 mph, Doering said. Additionally, no vehicle of any kind can legally travel at a speed that hinders traffic from flowing at the posted speed limit.
So, regardless of what common sense dictates, the law requires that golf carts on roadways pull over and allow faster-moving vehicles to pass when traffic is backing up, Doering said.
“Any person in a vehicle that prevents another person’s ability to at least drive the speed limit would be impeding the flow of traffic,” Doering said. “And to be classified as a motorized cart, it can only be driven at a maximum of 20 mph. So if you’re in a 20 mph vehicle on a road posted with a 35 mph speed limit, you’re going to be impeding traffic. Pull over and let them pass.”
Golf carts also must be equipped with a flashing amber light on top and must be posted on back with the standard red and orange triangular sign that designates slow-moving vehicles.
Like all vehicles, golf carts must have rearview mirrors, headlights, brake lights and turn signals. Drivers must be at least 16 years old and possess a valid driver license. And, of course, don’t drink and drive a golf cart, Doering said.
Back in May, a 52-year-old islander apparently used his red golf cart to make a beer run to the Friendly Express on Frederica Road, according to a Glynn County Police report. His “weaving in and out of traffic” drew the attention of police, who took him to jail on a charge of DUI.
“We’ve arrested people for drunk driving in golf carts,” Doering said.
Others cited for violating the rules of the road behind the wheel of a golf cart this year included the underage driver of a pink cart on Sandalwood Circle back in April, police records show. Police ticketed a visitor from Las Vegas in April for a seatbelt violation on Sea Island Road. And another visitor wrote an angry letter to The News after her husband was cited on July Fourth for impeding traffic on the island.
But golf carts have long been an integral part of St. Simons Island, as iconic an image of island living perhaps as the pier or the lighthouse.
This is, after all, a community that features a golf cart parade through the Pier Village as part of Fourth of July festivities.
Just ask Ann Russell. The longtime islander enjoys hopping in her E-Z-GO cart to cruise the quiet streets of her neighborhood off of Demere Road, with the trusty golden retriever mix Sadie riding shotgun. Russell sometimes even ventures down to the village in her golf cart.
But she is ever mindful that island time is relative on the roadway.
“It’s a lot of fun and it saves on gas,” Russell said. “But I make sure to pay attention to my surroundings, because not everybody’s on vacation. Some people have to get to work. You have to be considerate.”