- December 21, 2015
As soon as River Club’s Adam Rimer saw someone walking on the sidewalk, he pulled his golf cart onto the grass.
Rimer was driving his two children, 5-year-old Harrison Rimer and 7-year-old Ellie Rimer, to Braden River Elementary School, on the family golf cart.
As they arrived at school Nov. 4, Rimer parked his golf cart just off campus and walked his children the rest of the way to school.
“I love that we can just talk and hang out,” Rimer said. “I use (the golf cart rides) as an incentive for them to get ready on time because if they’re not, we have to drop them off in the car.”
Throughout the Lakewood Ranch area, Rimer isn’t the only parent to drive kids to school in golf carts.
People zip around Lakewood Ranch communities in golf carts as an easy mode of transportation, and just like any other motorist, golf cart drivers are subject to rules.
Capt. Stan Schaeffer of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office said golf carts are allowed on roads depending on the community. If a community is a designated golf course community, and people are driving within a mile of a golf course, golf carts can be operated on the roadways, he said.
If people are driving within a golf course community or within a mile of the golf course, Schaeffer said the golf carts do not need to be registered as a low-speed vehicle.
But if a golf cart is being used outside of those parameters on the road, the cart must be registered with the state. For example golf carts can't be driven on streets in Summerfield and Greenbrook unless they are registered. They also are not allowed on Summerfield and Greenbrook sidewalks or nature trails.
Schaeffer said when on the road, golf carts should stay close to the curb to allow for other traffic to pass.
“They should allow cars to pass them because they’re obviously not going to be able to travel at the speed of a motor vehicle,” Schaeffer said.
Many golf carts average a speed of 12 to 14 miles per hour, but depending on the type of golf cart, speeds could be higher than 20 miles per hour. Schaeffer said there is no speed limit for golf carts.
River Club’s Erika Ruzanov said her sons, 7-year-old Lukas and 5-year-old Nikolai, always are asking her to drive faster, but their golf cart won't oblige.
“We rock 14 miles per hour on our best charge,” she said.
For golf carts to be driven on sidewalks, the sidewalks must be at least 5 feet wide, and drivers must yield or move to the side, away from pedestrians.
Schaeffer said if people are driving golf carts on a sidewalk that does not meet the 5-foot requirement, they could be given a Uniform Traffic Citation.
He said Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies look to see if golf cart drivers are yielding to pedestrians or bicyclists. If the driver causes someone to take measures to avoid the golf cart, a deputy could pull the driver over and provide a warning. If the driver has “total disregard for pedestrians” the driver could receive a ticket.
River Strand’s Dianne Kopczynski said although golf carts can be driven on certain sidewalks in her community, she prefers they remain on the road.
“They should not be on sidewalks because many people are walking,” she said. “The road is fine if they’re following the rules and driving cautiously.”
Ruzanov said when her family decided to get a golf cart, they wanted to take every necessary precaution.
“The first thing I said was if we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it right,” Ruzanov said.
The family ensured there were seatbelts for everyone and the golf cart had a windshield, lights, turn signals, mirrors and more.
Golf carts are only allowed to be driven between sunrise and sunset, unless the golf cart has headlights, brake lights, turn signals and a windshield, Kopczynski said she sees golf carts being driven at night very often without those items.
Another concern residents have is the age of the golf cart drivers.
Kopczynski said when she sees people driving golf carts, it’s mostly kids who aren’t following the rules of the road.
Children who are at least 14 years old can drive golf carts within golf communities.
Schaeffer said if anyone under 16 years old is driving outside of a golf community, they could be cited as an unlicensed driver.
For example, if a 14-year-old is driving a golf cart in Greenbrook, even if it is registered as a low-speed vehicle, the 14-year-old could be cited because Greenbrook is not a designated golf course community.
Lakewood Ranch’s Graceann Frederico said her only concern regarding golf carts on the roads or sidewalks is when teenagers are driving.
“Since they don’t know how to drive yet, they’re not as cautious,” Frederico said.
Tara's Sharon Viner said golf carts have become more popular in her neighborhood as they are an easy way to get around. She said they've become so popular that Tara Golf and Country Club is adding at least 50 parking spaces dedicated to golf carts when it enhances its country club.
Rimer and Ruzanov said driving their golf carts around River Club has its benefits.
The Rimer family uses a golf cart to go for rides to give their children time outside and off their tablets. They’ll search for birds. During the holidays, they’ll drive around in their golf cart to see the Halloween or Christmas decorations.
While they’re out and about, they say hello to anyone who passes.
Ruzanov said the golf cart provides convenience because she can take her sons to school without dealing with the long drop-off or pick-up line. She also can get around the neighborhood more easily.
“It’s an accommodating neighborhood,” she said. “It’s a golf cart community, so people expect it. There are bigger sidewalks to adapt and large curbs to be off to the side. We roam everywhere.”
Driving a golf cart has given Ruzanov an opportunity to socialize with others, especially after the height of the pandemic when people were staying at home most of the time.
She said she’s been able to get to know other parents who walk or drive their students to and from school using a golf cart.