Golf cart drivers could face bigger fines, jail time with new law

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Lowcountry law enforcement wants people to learn the new rules and penalties for misusing golf carts before warmer weather arrives.

In November, South Carolina implemented steeper fines and even jail time for golf cart misuse. Under the change, a $100 fine or even up to 30 days is possible. State law requires the following for golf cart users:

  • The golf cart must be registered through the DMV. 
  • The golf cart must be insured. 
  • The driver of the golf cart must be at least 15 years  of age AND a licensed driver. 
  • The driver must stay within 4 miles of the address the  golf cart is registered to. 
  • Drivers may not drive golf carts at night. 
  • Drivers must only drive on secondary roadways, no  primary roadways. 

If any of those rules are violated, police say they have the right to ticket and charge that driver.

Two months later, several of the departments say they haven’t written many citations but expect that to change.

Isle of Palms Police have given out two warnings, a citation, and arrested a man for driving a golf cart under the influence since the steeper penalties went into effect.

“I don’t think we enforce it more than anyone else, but we have more golf carts here and having more makes us deal with them and when people break the law we take enforcement action,” IOP Police Captain Jeffrey Swain said.

The Mount Pleasant Police Department hasn’t had any citations or warnings at all during that time. Police departments in Charleston, North Charleston, Summerville, and Folly Beach did not have the records immediately available.

Swain said the new policies did go into effect during the tourism off season so the officers do expect a spike in golf cart misuse over the next few months when people begin to vacation on the island again.

“Our citations go up for all offenses on the island as it gets warmer,” Swain said. “That’s the nature of being out here on the beach.”

Swain said that as the warm weather rolls in, so do the people renting properties that come with golf carts in the contracts. He says visitors are the ones who don’t typically know the rules.

“A lot of times that’s what we hear from people when they get pulled over is ‘Oh I didn’t know,’ so we try to be fair," he said.

But he said he wants something to be done about that since it’s a problem with a simple solution.

“Some of our education efforts will help get the rules out, rental companies could step in and make sure the rules are posted and put in contracts,” Swain said.

Swain said that if you do travel to any South Carolina beaches, just look up local golf cart laws and be familiar with the policies before your vacation ends with fines or jail time.

Copyright 2019 WCSC. All rights reserved.

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