Operators of golf carts in Holmes Beach must be made aware that they have to conform to traffic laws and city ordinances, Mary Buonaugera told city commissioners at their July 12 meeting.
Buonaugera said she lives in the Jones Beach subdivision, which is between 43rd and 52nd streets, and she’s been observing golf-cart operations there the past two months and taking notes.
She said she’s seen cart operators cut across private property to reach another street, ignore stop signs and speed limits, drive on the sidewalk, take corners on two wheels and carry too many passengers.
Additionally, she said many of the drivers appear to be around 13 or 14 years old and likely have little understanding of road regulations.
“It’s an accident waiting to happen,” she said.
Buonaugera suggested rental agents include a page on safe operation of a golf cart to vacationers, noting that the minimum age is 14 to operate an unlicensed golf cart.
Commissioner John Monetti agreed, but said the companies that rent the golf carts also should provide the information to vacationers. Many vacationers who operate the carts “probably have no idea what they’re doing is illegal,” he said.
But Buonaugera admitted she had not called police when she observed her alleged transgressions.
“That’s the first thing to do,” said Mayor Rich Bohnenberger. He pledged that police will follow up on a call and would be on the lookout for golf carts in the Jones Beach subdivision and elsewhere in the city.
And officers have stopped golf cart operators for breaking driving regulations, he said.
The mayor said he had a safety meeting with police that morning and golf cart operations and licensing was a subject of their discussion.
Bohnenberger said the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles has licensed some golf carts in the city as “slow-moving vehicles.”
Additionally, he said, the DMV and city allow unlicensed golf carts to operate on some city streets, but not a state road such as State Road 789-Gulf Drive or State Road 64-Manatee Avenue.
Operators of a licensed golf cart have to be at least 16 years old and have a valid driver’s license, while an operator of an unlicensed golf cart must be at least 14 years old.
Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine and representatives of other area law enforcement agencies will meet this week with DMV to clarify what the DMV considers a “slow-moving vehicle,” a licensed golf cart and an unlicensed golf cart or vehicle.
Romine said a “slow-moving vehicle” must have an orange triangle on the rear, have turn signals, brake lights, headlights, and meet other safety requirements. Some licensed golf carts and electric vehicles in the city might not meet those requirements, he indicated.
Bohnenberger said he’d like to see all golf carts licensed under DMV regulations.
He said he’s instructed Romine to have Holmes Beach police officers stop any golf cart if the operator appears to be underage. Police also will stop any unlicensed golf cart driving on a prohibited road.
The mayor encouraged Buonaugera and the public to call police if they see any illegal operation of a golf cart or question the age of the driver. If the cart is found to be licensed and the driver does not have a valid driver’s license, the operator is “in for a rude awakening,” the mayor said.