The Fayette Citizen-News Page

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Teens, seniors: Start your golf carts


Peachtree City Police Chief James Murray is hoping good old-fashioned common sense prevails citywide Thursday afternoon, when Gov. Sonny Perdue signs a new state law restoring golf cart driving privileges to unlicensed and underage drivers.

Perdue is scheduled to put pen to paper at 1:15 p.m. Thursday in a ceremony at The Gathering Place senior center in the McIntosh Trail complex, adjacent to the Brown Amphitheater.

About two hours later, the school day will end for hundreds of teenagers who were banned from operating the carts nearly a year ago, when Fayette County’s state court solicitor declared Peachtree City’s ordinance in conflict with state law.

Until the governor signs the bill, citizens have to abide by the current application of the law, Murray said.

No city officials would speculate how Peachtree City’s youth will take to the sudden lifting of the prohibition, but Murray did caution cart operators of all ages to take it easy the first few days.

“People need to restrain themselves and wait a couple of days,” Murray said Monday afternoon. “It’s like waiting for Christmas.”

For better or worse, the old ordinance will take effect almost immediately after Perdue signs it, said Betsy Tyler, city spokeswoman.

“I don’t think the council needs to reinstate an ordinance that, theoretically, was never stricken from the books,” said Tyler.

Ordinarily, new laws approved by the legislature and signed by the governor become official with the start of the state’s fiscal year on July 1.

But the bill specifically addressing Peachtree City’s golf cart issue, sponsored by Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Sharpsburg, included language authorizing enactment as soon as Perdue signs off on it.

The change in the law makes it legal once more for anybody 16 and older without a regular state-issued license to drive golf carts within the city. That’s welcome relief to a sizable number of senior residents who had given up cars and driver’s licenses in favor of the slower, safer alternative.

But again, the city’s youth will likely benefit most from the restored perk. Kids as young as 12, 13 and 14 are allowed to drive when accompanied in the front seat by a parent, grandparent or guardian. Fifteen-year-olds with a valid learner’s permit can drive solo, while those without a learner’s can drive as long as a licensed 18-year-old or parent, grandparent or guardian is along for the ride.

Two years ago when the City Council first adopted the the ordinance, the jump in young drivers was noticeable the next day, Murray has said.

The vehicles became so popular among many of the city’s 15-year-olds, McIntosh High School was forced to section off part of its student parking lot in 2002 to make room for more than 200 golf carts driven by underclassmen otherwise too young to bring cars on campus.

The golf cart lot has gone mostly unused this year, which is a good thing, said McIntosh Principal Tracy Fleming. New gym construction has consumed about half of the old student lot, and cars have again taken over the cart spaces.

Fleming said the school put a plan in place to welcome back the golf carts shortly after both houses of the legislature approved the bill in early February, and would be ready to enforce it as soon as Perdue made it official.

Road rules revisited:

Who can drive in PTC

A new state law to be signed by Gov. Sonny Perdue on Thursday gives cities and towns throughout Georgia the authority to set rules for the operation of “motorized carts” within their boundaries, restoring Peachtree City’s golf cart driving ordinance almost immediately. The city’s law, ruled illegal last year, remains on the books unchanged and allows the following operators:

• Any person age 16 and older, unless they have had their driver’s license suspended or revoked by the state.

• Fifteen-year-olds with no license or learner’s permit, as long as they are accompanied by a licensed 18-year-old, parent, grandparent, or legal guardian;

• Fifteen-year-olds with a valid learner’s permit can drive solo or under the above conditions, or accompanied by up to one other unrelated person at least 15 years old, or up to three immediate family members.

• 12-, 13- and 14-year olds when accompanied in the front seat by a parent, grandparent or legal guardian.

NOTE: No one under the age of 12 may operate a cart. Low Speed Vehicles such as the GEM car still require a valid driver’s license for operation.

Source: Betsy Tyler,

PTC Public Information Officer

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