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Law: Golf carts on roads OK

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Thursday, August 30, 2018

It turns out that Elizabeth City officials' recent debate over allowing golf carts on public streets is moot, as state law already governs their use.

During Monday's City Council meeting, police Chief Eddie Buffaloe reported he discovered a state law that allows “low-speed vehicles,” including golf carts, to be used on some roads, provided they have basic safety features. That prompted him to recommend the city not move forward with a draft city ordinance that would've imposed similar regulations on their use.

City staff first came up with that ordinance in 2014, responding to councilors' interest in allowing golf carts. After Buffaloe, City Manager Rich Olson and others raised safety concerns, council shelved the issue until earlier this month, when Councilor Billy Caudle said constituents asked him to revive the issue.

That led to a lengthy discussion during council's Aug. 13 meeting. Concerns about golf carts remained, and so council recommended further research and even a community survey about allowing them on roads.

That effort now seems moot, however, after Buffaloe discovered General Statute 20-121.1, a law enacted in August 2001, based on the General Assembly's website.

The law allows people to drive low-speed vehicles on roads with speed limits of 35 mph or less; they are allowed to cross streets with higher speed limits. It also provides a low-speed vehicle must have headlights, brake lights, turn signals, a parking brake, rear-view mirrors, windshield and windshield wipers, speedometer, seat belts, and a vehicle identification number. Low-speed vehicles must also be registered and insured, the law states.

The law also states the N.C. Department of Transportation may prohibit low-speed vehicles if necessary for public safety.

Councilors voted unanimously to take no further action on golf carts.

In attendance Monday were Mayor Bettie Parker and Councilors Gabriel Adkins, Jeannie Young, Darius Horton, Rickey King, Caudle, and Johnnie Walton. Absent were Councilors Anita Hummer and Kem Spence.

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