Golf cart laws evolve | Editorial

The simple golf cart demonstrates the complexity of living in modern times.

State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, got a law passed last year allowing people to drive golf carts in properly established golf cart zones. The idea was hatched by people living around the now-defunct Holmes Harbor Golf Course in Freeland, where roads have such names as Fairway Drive and Chip Shot Lane. All they wanted to do was legally drive golf carts around the neighborhood and on the short stretch of county road that divides the golf course and houses.

Then the idea caught on with the alternative energy and green living crowd, leading Coupeville and Langley to join Island County in creating golf cart zones.

It started getting complicated. At the urging of the sheriff, Coupeville decided golf carts on public roads would need brake lights and turn signals. The sheriff was mollified, but not satisfied. He still had safety concerns.

Meanwhile, a county attorney pointed out that the state law doesn’t allow local jurisdictions to add golf cart restrictions. Sen. Haugen is now at work to permit such local tinkering.

Lately, the idea of headlights has been raised. We can expect more concerns to arise as the issue becomes better known.

Why shouldn’t golf cart drives be required to wear seat belts? The carts are open and dangerous, shouldn’t doors be required, or at least air bags front and back? Without a windshield, bugs could hit drivers in the eye, inducing bug-caused crashes. Goggles should certainly be required. And definitely a helmet, as golf cart drivers could easily fall out when rounding a corner too fast. For added protection, require a roll bar under the soft top.

Inevitably, people will start racing golf carts. Electric motors will be replaced by small gas motors, and then V-8 engines. Laws will have to be adopted to regulate the size of engines and their emissions.

Ultimately, old duffers who drive their golf carts will need tail lights, brake lights, head lights, helmets, goggles, air bags, seat belts, shoulder harnesses, roll bar and engine restraint devices, like they use in NASCAR so the cars can’t go too fast. Oh, and don’t forget proof of insurance and registration.

All this equipment will make it vastly more expensive to outfit a golf cart and also more difficult to see while driving. But there’s also a solution for that. If it looks like you’re about to hit someone or something, you’ll be required by law to yell, “Fore!”


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