7960574453?profile=originalA resident maneuvers a golf cart into Briny Breezes, where the use of non-street-legal golf carts

such as this one has been determined to be illegal.

Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star

By Rich Pollack

    Drive your golf cart on a public road in Ocean Ridge and you might be stopped for violating state traffic laws.
    Ride that same golf cart — similar to one you’d see on a golf course — on a street just a short distance away in Gulf Stream and you’re operating within the law.
    Now, take that same golf cart out for a short spin in Briny Breezes and you’d be violating the law — at least for now — but there’s a good chance you won’t get a ticket as long as you’re operating it safely.
    If that’s not confusing enough, add into the mix the fact that no matter what coastal town you’re in, you’re likely to be in the rough if you take that golf cart onto State Road A1A — or even try to cross it.
    Throughout the coastal communities in Palm Beach County, laws regulating golf carts vary substantially thanks largely to a provision in state law that allows local governments to pass ordinances determining where they can be used.
    Those state laws and local ordinances are significantly different, however, from laws governing low-speed vehicles — better known as street-legal golf carts — like the ones you’ll find on A1A and in downtown Delray Beach.
    “Whether you can legally operate a golf cart in your community is something you should educate yourself about before you engage in that activity,” says Ocean Ridge Police Chief Hal Hutchins, who advises contacting the local police department if you’re unsure of local restrictions.
    In Gulf Stream, an ordinance passed in 1999 makes it possible for anyone to drive a golf cart on a public road as long as drivers follow traffic laws and golf carts have the proper equipment.
    That ordinance, enacted following requests from some residents, has no age restriction on who can and can’t drive the cart.
    “We initially anticipated problems with youthful drivers but that hasn’t been an issue,” said Police Chief Gary Ward. In Briny Breezes — where the ratio of golf carts to homes is exceedingly high — the question of what golf cart uses are legal became a hot topic following a February incident in which a resident’s foot was run over from behind by a golf cart as cart and pedestrian crossed State Road A1A.
    For decades, residents of Briny Breezes have been using their golf carts to get around town. In doing so, however, they’re actually violating the law, according to Hutchins, whose department provides police services to that community.
    Now the town is preparing an ordinance that will make it legal to operate golf carts within the community as long as they’re operated safely and within state law.
    “The ordinance needs to be in place to set clear guidelines and authorize the use of golf carts within the municipality,” said Hutchins, whose department has been using discretion and honoring the long-standing tradition of not citing golf cart owners as long as vehicles are operating safely.
    Town officials are hoping to fast-track the ordinance and have it in place by the end of the month. At the same time, Town Attorney John Skrandel is researching the possibility of getting approval from the Florida Department of Transportation to develop at least one, and possibly two, golf cart crossings on A1A, which bisects the town.
    State law permits golf cart crossings on state roads — similar to one in place on A1A in Boca Raton that connects both sides of Red Reef Executive Golf Course. Those crossings must meet DOT guidelines and receive DOT approval.
    State law is also very specific in allowing low-speed vehicles as long as they meet several of the same safety standards required of small cars.
    “We tell people you drive these just like you drive a car,” says Cindi Freeburn, who along with her husband, David, opened Exhilaride, a Delray Beach street-legal golf cart rental business in January. “You must obey all the rules of the road and you have to wear your seat belt.”
    For safety purposes, all passengers must not only wear seatbelts but the same child restraints required in a car are required in a golf cart, Freeburn said.
    Street-legal golf carts, she says, must have a license plate and a vehicle identification number, just like a regular car.
They must also have many of the same safety features including headlights, taillights, turn signals, windshield and rearview mirror and must be able to go at least 20 miles an hour but no more than 25 miles per hour.
    These vehicles are allowed only on roads with a speed limit of 35 miles per hour or lower.
    In Delray Beach, it’s not unusual to find golf-course golf carts that have been converted to street-legal vehicles along with factory-built low-speed vehicles,  especially downtown and on A1A, according to Sgt. Jeff Rasor, who heads the traffic division.


Safety equipment required under Florida state law:  
    Golf Carts Operating on Public Roads (Florida Statute 316.212, sect. 5)  
    A golf cart must be equipped with:
• Efficient brakes
• Reliable steering apparatus
• Safe tires
• A rearview mirror
• Red reflecting warning devices in both the front and rear  

    Low-Speed Vehicles or Street Legal Golf Carts (316.2122, sect. 2)
    A low-speed vehicle must be equipped with:
• Headlamps
• Stop lamps
• Turn-signal lamps
• Taillamps
• Reflex reflectors
• Parking brakes
• Rearview mirrors
• Windshield
• Seat belts
• Vehicle identification numbers

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