Orange County government officials are analyzing the possibility of allowing county residents to drive their golf carts within communities and designated roadways with speed limits under 25 or 30 mph.
Since 1994, several communities in unincorporated Orange County have asked the county to allow golf carts on public roadways. Those include Hunter’s Creek, and Bay Hill in District 1, Rio Pinar in District 3 and Eastwood in District 4.
So far, the county has not supported the idea because of safety and operational concerns, Orange County Traffic Engineer Humberto Castillero said during the Orange County Board of County Commissioners meeting held April 23.
However, following an open discussion Jan. 8, Orange County District 1 Commissioner Betsy VanderLey requested the county revisit the issue. She believes there is a need to allow and regulate golf carts on public roads, Castillero said.
“I don’t want to penalize the folks who are operating (their golf carts) in a safe manner by saying you can’t do that any longer,” he said. “But I’d like to give them a way forward to do that safely. … And I want to make sure that if it’s not possible for them to do so in a safe manner, that it’s been vetted. … I don’t see anything changing in terms of enforcement, but I do see it changing in terms of seatbelts, lights, and putting kids in car seats so that you could have a safer operation.”
Any future ordinance also would need to address the safety and minimum-age restrictions, registration process, license and insurance requirements, and logistics for enforcement of any proposed law regulating golf cart operation.
Presently, state laws mandate that golf carts are prohibited on public roads unless allowed by local laws on select roads which display appropriate signage. Florida statutes also forbid anyone younger than 14 years old from operating a golf cart and limits usage between sunrise and sunset — unless a local government allows extended hours with the condition that golf carts include additional equipment, such as headlights and turn signals.
State law also permits golf carts to be used within self-contained retirement communities, unless a local government prohibits such operation in the interest of safety.
Winter Garden’s golf cart 2011 ordinance allows golf carts registered through the city’s police department to be used on designated streets. It does not require drivers to have a license, but drivers have to be at least 18 years old.
And in Oakland, a 2005 ordinance permits golf carts on certain streets between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., but the golf carts must be registered through the town’s police department and equipped with headlights, brake lights, turn signals, and windshields.
VanderLey suggested 16 as the minimum-age requirement for anyone driving a golf cart and that any passenger three years or younger be secured in a car seat. She added she would like to require headlights and tail lights because she assumes people will drive the carts after-hours anyway.
VanderLey also said she would prefer the registration process be handled by a county department or agency.
As for enforcement, Orange County Sheriff’s Office Sector 3 Captain Tony Marlow assured commissioners that OCSO would continue to enforce any future laws using their current number of deputies and would not hire more, but would work with HOAs to “augment the services (OCSO) currently provides to each community.”
“This is a challenging issue that we’re talking about here, because at the end of the day, we want people to be safe and, like all laws, if there’s no enforcement, it’s like not having a law at all,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said. “So we want to be a bit realistic about the enforcement capabilities.”