Golf cart protocol: It does exist

July 30, 2021
By Staff Report

This has been a busy time for local deputies, as visitors and homeowners seem to be staying longer into the year, and quite often bringing children with them. While we all love kids, and Boca Grande is a perfect place for them, they still need to be supervised when it comes to the use of golf carts.

Many golf carts have been “borrowed” or outright stolen on the island this year, then found later on somewhere else. Sometimes the cart owner is lucky enough to get their property back with no damage, but quite often whoever took the cart vandalized or damaged it. As you can see in the photo above, some have been driven on the beach where they not only get filled with sand and frequently stuck, they can also hurt the sea turtle nests, hatchlings and shorebirds who are currently prolific on the beach

Make sure if you have children visiting you who are old enough to drive a golf cart (14 or older on the island), they are very aware of the rules of the cart path, of the road, and of common courtesy. This means everything from not driving a cart on Gulf Boulevard or Gasparilla Road to call out when you’re about to pass someone on the path. It means not driving fast when other people are approaching, and it means, most importantly, treating a golf cart no differently than a car.

Just last week we had two very serious accidents involving golf carts, with occupants in those carts sustaining injuries that will take weeks – if not months – to recover from. Operating a golf cart is a serious responsibility, and unless the younger people who drive them are aware of that they will treat them like a toy.

If you have a golf cart and have any way to lock it up at your home, it’s a good idea to do so. Finding your cart in the Gulf or on the beach, or gone altogether for that matter, is unpleasant and can be avoided. If you don’t have a space to lock your cart up, consider using a lo-jack device to be able to track the cart’s location, or using a special steering wheel lock when it’s not iuse. Always remember to take the keys out of the ignition, too.

The following are cart path rules issued by the Gasparilla Island Conservation and Improvement Association. This is the bare minimum information everyone who operates a golf cart, particularly on the paths, should know:

• No motorized vehicles: except electric golf carts, wheelchairs and bicycles

• No gas-powered vehicles

• No golf carts > 50 inches wide

• No drivers under the age of 14

• No speeds above 15 miles per hour

• No tires on the shell path … feet only

• Carts and bicycles must yield to pedestrians

• Warn first, then pass “on your left”

• Practice safety and courtesy all day, every day

While the rules are clear, a common concern is that golf carts don’t have “speedometers” so people do not realize how fast they are travelling. If you are going 15 mph or faster on the golf cart path, that is too fast in most circumstances. Not sure of your speed?  If you want to know how fast you are moving on your bicycle or in your cart, you can download one of several free apps to your smartphone. Simply search the app store for speedometer to find a large selection of free apps. Some only show your speed, but other also have odometers and GPS.  

Slow down and give way to any user of the path that is moving slower than you and be aware of the 15 MPH limit. Local deputies will be watching, as well residents who are tired of seeing preventable accidents happen.

• One person per seat in a golf cart. No standing on the back, no sitting on the front or windshield.

• When you are crossing busy roads, you must act as if you’re a motorcycle. That means not to expect anyone to see you who is driving in a motor vehicle. That risk, of course, doubles at night.

• Do not drive the cart unless all occupants are seated.

• Do not allow small children to sit on the lap of the driver to drive, unless you are on your own property.

• Do not allow small children to play around parked golf carts, as the cart can be disengaged from “park” and move backwards and forwards if on an incline. Set the parking brake before leaving the cart.

• Do not take corners sharply or quickly, as you could very well dump the cart on its side. People have died in accidents when this occurs.

• Be very careful if you have pets on the cart, particularly if they are on a leash. The leash could become tangled with the cart or wheels, and choking or death could occur.

On the cart paths …

• No motorized vehicles: except electric golf carts, wheelchairs and bicycles

• No gas-powered vehicles

• No golf carts more than 50 inches wide

• No drivers under the age of 14

• No speeds above 15 miles per hour

• No tires on the shell path … feet only

• Carts and bicycles must yield to pedestrians

• Warn first, then pass “on your left”

• Practice safety and courtesy all day, every day