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Golf cart drivers face new rules if they hit public roads
Law requires carts to have horns, restraints
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Taking the golf cart out for a spin around the neighborhood may be fun, but make sure the vehicle is equipped much like the everyday car you're leaving in the garage.

A new law taking effect Sunday creates a separate classification of personal transportation vehicles for golf carts, requiring them to have braking systems, a reverse warning device, tail lamps, a horn and hip restraints.

The carts must weigh less than 1,375 pounds and not top speeds of 20 mph.

The new requirements take effect once golf cart drivers hit public roadways, including subdivision streets.

"We will be looking out for and enforcing the law as it is written," said Sgt. Kiley Sargent of the Hall County Sheriff's Office.

If deputies notice carts with missing equipment "on a county right of way or roadway, then (drivers) are subject to being stopped and fined," just like any other vehicle, Sargent said.

The bill was signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal this year after his predecessor, Gov. Sonny Perdue, vetoed a similar measure last year. It had backing from one of Georgia's key industries — golf cart manufacturing.

The Georgia-based International Light Transportation Vehicle Association, formerly known as the National Golf Cars Manufacturers Association — which prefers the term "car" to "cart" — estimates that 90 percent of the golf carts used in the U.S. are made in Georgia.

"Safety is what we're concerned about," said Fred L. Somers Jr., secretary of the association.

"Unless you put in some safety equipment accessories, you're just asking for trouble."

And, he added, golf carts are a cheaper form of transportation for people who live in cities where they don't need to travel far to go to the grocery store.

The new law also sets standards for towns and counties wanting to create ordinances allowing drivers to use the carts on residential streets and multi-purpose pathways.

Twenty-three Georgia cities have golf cart ordinances, with some places such as Peachtree City near Atlanta and Hahira in South Georgia creating golf cart lanes along local roadways, according to the Georgia Municipal Association.

Hall County has several golf course communities built around public streets.

Royal Lakes Golf & Country Club in South Hall straddles Sloan Mill Road, a popular cut-through for motorists traveling between Ga. 53/Winder Highway and Poplar Springs Road.

Golf carts cross Sloan Mill every day, said James Morra, Royal Lakes' first assistant golf professional.

But he has heard of some drivers tooling up Sloan Mill to the Kroger-anchored shopping center or even across the four-lane Winder Highway to reach businesses on the other side.

"I just don't think you should do that," Morra said. "It's dangerous. There's no protection in the golf cart."

He also doesn't agree with the requirement for a safety restraint.

"I don't think you should be strapped into the cart," Morra said. "To me, if somebody is going to hit you, I think a bail-out would be easier than to take the hit."

Associated Press contributed to this report.


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