by Max Brantley
It has legislative relevance. For reasons unclear to me, Rep. Prissy Hickerson of Texarkana won legislative approval of a bill that expands the range of unlicensed golf carts on city streets, when cities are willing. Where the law had allowed operation of golf carts only between homes and golf courses on streets not designated as highways, Hickerson's law expands golf cart access to streets citywide, with municipal approval.
The problem with these unlicensed and unregistered vehicles is their expanded use, both by people not licensed to drive and by operators not bound by driving rules applicable to conventional vehicles. Writes a Little Rock resident:
As a person who grew up in the Heights and has recently moved back, I have watched the golf cart traffic increase to dangerous levels.
You stated the sightings of teenagers in golf carts. This is true, but it goes much further than that.
Yesterday I saw a 12- or 13-year-old girl driving a golf cart with a friend and her mother. It appeared they were just out driving to enjoy the day. I saw an adult male holding his toddler in one arm and driving the golf cart with the other. I saw a front yard party of multiple families with a golf cart parked on the street. 2 weeks ago, I saw an adult male with his elementary aged son on the sidewalk in their golf cart at Starbucks.
My understanding from speaking with Little Rock Police that it is illegal in the city of Little Rock to drive a golf cart on the streets. They also stated that folks must be caught in the act before anything can be done and gave me the non-emergency number to call when I see a golf cart on the street.
I am horrified that a state representative would even consider a law allowing anyone to drive golf carts on the streets legally. No seatbelts? No passenger limits? No lights? Where is the benefit to the community for a law like this?
Max, I am trying to put a stop to this in my neighborhood before someone is hurt or killed. Any ideas?
Not really. My only idea is 1) to stay in touch with the City Board to make sure Little Rock doesn't expand the reach of marauding golf carts. 2) Whether anything can be done about existing abuses, I just don't know, I indicated. My correspondent wrote back
I'll keep calling the non-emergency number when I see them. I didn't get out of the house until late this afternoon and guess what I saw! Middle aged couple in their golf cart, with two dogs on the back in a cage. Can't walk the dogs in the Heights ya know, gotta take em for a ride! When did the folks living in the Heights begin to think they were so entitled? Or maybe they always have, though I don't remember feeling entitled when I grew up here in the 60's and 70's.
I wonder if the police would speak at the next Heights Association meeting on April 22nd?
UPDATE: After work today, my original correspondent sent in a response to some of the robust commenting today. It follows on the jump.
Looks like my email to you caused quite a stir in the neighborhood! And I would like to put to rest concerns from bloggers I need a life and I am unhappy. I have a GREAT life and I am not unhappy, I'm scared.
Why am I scared? See these facts I was able to pull off the web.
The July 2008 issue of The American Journal of Preventive Medicine reports injuries from being hit by or falling off of golf carts surged 132% from 1990 to 2006. Nearly 150,000 people were hurt in golf cart accidents during that time.
In 1990 there were an estimated 5,772 golf cart injuries, but in 2006 that number had surged to 13,411. About 70% occurred at a sports or recreational facility. About 15% of injuries happened on the street, and those injuries were most likely to result in concussions and hospitalization. Another 15% occurred around homes or on a farm.
Nearly one-third of injuries involved children. About half of the injuries were related to falling or jumping from a golf cart or the cart overturning. Children were at highest risk for falls, and a fall was twice as likely to cause a head or neck injury.
The most common type of injury was soft tissue damage, usually just bruises, followed by fractures and lacerations. Other types of injuries include concussions, internal injuries, subdural hematoma, spinal cord injury, or acute respiratory compromise. While rare, a few cases had severe outcomes: 4 fatalities, 2 paraplegics, and 1 quadriplegic injury have been documented.
One study showed golf carts traveling as slow as 11 M.P.H. can easily eject a passenger during a turn.
Are there more important issues in our city? Absolutely. Until..... Until someone, probably a child, is badly hurt or killed in a golf cart accident. Then I promise golf carts on city streets will be a top story, tragedies always are. I hope it does not take a tragedy to initiate change.
Just remember, driving a golf cart on a Little Rock city street is illegal and dangerous. I agree a golf cart as a green alternative for short trips is a great idea. Let's license the carts, make them safe for city street travel, keep them off the sidewalks, etc.... you know, all the laws vehicles have to abide by. Until then? I suggest obeying the law. Is it unfortunate police may be called up here to address the law breakers? Yes. Is it preventable? Yes. How? Stop driving on the city streets.
As for the cyclists, mud bikes, ATV's, etc.... I can only take on one issue at a time.