In August, hundreds of golf carts will take the streets during the 54th annual Tri-State Gas Engine and Tractor Show in Portland.
A bill introduced by Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, would allow those golf carts to be driven on state highways as well.
Two key players in the show, including a golf cart business owner, say that’s not a good idea.
“I personally don’t think golf carts should be driven on state highways,” said Chris Englehardt, president of Tri-State Gas Engine and Tractor Association.
“Outside of city limits, I don’t think they have any business being driven on state highways,” said Eugene Thomason, owner of Carts & Parts, which specializes in golf carts and rents them out to those wishing to easily get around town during the show.Senate Bill 189 (http://iga.in.gov/legislative/2020/bills/senate/189) would allow golf carts to be driven on highways so long as they don’t impede traffic or endanger lives, according to the bill’s text, though Holdman said it might be too late for the bill to receive a hearing in the Senate Homeland Security and Transportation Committee.
State law currently doesn’t have much on the books in regard to golf carts being driven on roads, leaving a lot of ambiguity for cities like Portland that allow them to be driven on its streets.
Under Indiana Code, a golf cart is not defined as a low-speed vehicle. If it was, it would be required to have seat belts and other safety requirements.
A search of accident reports printed in The Portland Commercial Review shows eight traffic collisions or injuries involving golf carts over the last five years.
According to a study by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, golf cart accidents on streets and public property accounted for an estimated 15,000 injured between 1990 and 2006.
Another study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found a driver or rider can be ejected from a golf cart going as low as 11 mph.
Thomason recognizes it’d be good for his business if the bill became law, but that it’s “dangerous” for golf carts to travel outside of city limits or on any road with a speed limit above 35 mph.
Holdman, who represents Jay County, said he’s aware that it can be dangerous for a golf cart to be driven on a state highway but that it should be up to a golf cart’s drivers and passengers to decide if they should go on highways, not state law.
There’s already enough car traffic as there is, Englehardt said. And while he knows those utilizing the golf carts would enjoy the bill becoming law, he added that the increased amount of vehicles on highways could complicate traffic even more during the event.
Holdman said more than likely his bill will not receive a hearing in the committee, but a bill similar to it could be introduced in the House of Representatives and make its way through the legislative process. He said he has not discussed that option with any state representative this year.