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Bill requires golf cart drivers to be 16, have license; PTC impact uncertain

A new law passed by the Georgia Legislature would require citizens to have a driver’s license in order to drive a golf cart.

That would put the kibosh on 15-year-olds being able to drive golf carts in Peachtree City. It would have ramifications for older citizens who can no longer obtain a driver’s license but enjoy the independence a golf cart provides for daily errands and recreational trips.

Senate Bill 519 has not yet become law, but without a veto from Governor Sonny Perdue by Tuesday, June 8, it will automatically become law with or without the governor’s signature.

Citizens who wish to contact the governor’s office may do so by calling 404-656-1776 or at http://www.georgia.gov/00/gov/contact_us.

Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City) noted that an existing law gives Peachtree City and other local governments power to dictate the rules for golf cart operation, which is actually called a motorized cart. SB 519 did not expressly repeal that legislation.

SB 519, however, makes it clear that “operators of golf carts and landscape type vehicles must possess a valid driver’s license.”

Peachtree City Attorney Ted Meeker said the city has been “looking into the ramifications” of SB 519.

A number of senior citizens depend solely on their golf carts for transportation as they have been unable to renew their driver’s licenses, according to Janet Werner of the city’s Gathering Place senior citizen’s center.

Such people “would be completely isolated” and at the mercy of other caregivers for their transportation needs if they were unable to drive a golf cart, Werner said.

“It would be a major impact to the users of the Gathering Place,” Werner said.

Ramsey said that the bill, which passed on the final day of the legislature this year, seemed to be fine based on his initial interpretation and those of several other attorneys. But since then several other attorneys have weighed in with different viewpoints, he added.

“From a legal perspective, at the end of the day I think it still preserves our ordinance,” Ramsey said of the city’s golf cart ordinance, which allows 15-year-olds to drive with a learner’s permit and allows older residents to drive without a license.
Senate Bill 519 was also flawed because it specifically referred to the language “golf cart” even though it is not defined anywhere in Georgia law, Ramsey said.
Ramsey said SB 519 was initially brought forward by the golf cart industry which is seeking to create a new type of golf cart-type vehicle.

Language in the bill creates a distinction between a golf cart as a “low speed vehicle” and a “motorized cart” which can be up to 2,500 pounds and must have headlights and tail lamps to be operated at night; starting next year any such vehicles manufactured would also have to have a horn and side reflectors.

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