Attention those of you who text and drive in California! First, you should be ashamed of yourself, and second, you should be even more concerned because never mind the electric bikes, the scooters, and all the other congestion we live with, you will now have yet another obstacle in your already jammed roadways: golf cars.
Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed Senate Bill 1151 into law, making it possible for more California cities like America’s Finest to adopt or modify regional transportation plans allowing more people to basically drive golf cars on public streets.
The bill, which is one of several attempts to address California’s Climate Action Plan, basically paves the way for more people to buy golf cars (mostly older and used ones), slap a high-speed motor into them, add a set of simple restraining belts and boom! They now have a totally “street ill-legal,” eco-friendly, emissions-free, take-your-kids-to-school death machine — all for just about $6,500. Such a deal. I guess it’s time to up your insurance.
Let’s be clear, I feed my family and the families of more than 100 employees by selling, servicing and renting golf cars, so to say that I am staunchly against this new law (as its written, and for the moment) might come as a shock. Most of my industry is jumping with joy over this news, but not me. I’m worried about it because this is not a safe move for motorists.
Know Your Limitations
You see, I’m in the golf car and Electric Low Speed Vehicle business, and my company has been doing this since Eisenhower was president. We were doing this long before the electric car was considered cool or before the terms “eco-friendly,” “green” or “low emission” were ever spoken. So we know a little about them, how they are designed, how they are manufactured, and what they can and can’t do.
For those current and future golf cars that are being allowed to drive on our public streets, I’ve been lobbying for more safety features for a long time. And when you consider that motor vehicle accidents occurring at low speeds are increasing rapidly (see the texting drivers above), that means more distracted drivers will be engaging with more golf cars on the roads making it dangerous for everyone.
Use The Right Vehicles
Unless of course, the proper vehicles are promoted. And that’s where this bill is lacking.
Golf cars by design do not qualify for the federal Department of Transportation’s definition for a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle. They in fact, are meant to really be driven to and from the golf course. However, the DOT rules for Low Speed Vehicles (LSVs) are very precise, and when followed, those safety guidelines protect lives and make the experience a lot safer. However, SB1151 allows people to drive on public streets in a simple golf car because the bill itself did not reference or link the federal guidelines for NEVs to this bill. It’s like allowing a moped on a freeway.
Little to No Protection
LSVs are manufactured under the design requirements set forth by the DOT, and they are designed for street use. They are manufactured to accelerate and decelerate safely, to protect passengers and most importantly, to come to a stop in a specific distance when at full speed. Golf cars by design have two-wheel brakes and are built to top out at 15 mph. The modified “street illegal golf carts” simply provide little to no protection in the event of accident.
By opening the streets to accept golf cars, before enforcing the DOT’s rules for NEVs and LSVs, and by not imposing stricter regulations on the safety requirements for these vehicles, we are literally putting the cart before the horse. If Gov. Brown were to address the bill with the inclusion of actual NEV/LSV safety requirements and if he focused a little more on protecting lives over trees, then we would have amazing legislation that puts right vehicles on the streets while keeping the wrong ones off.
Brian Rott is president of CEO of San Marcos-based Cart Mart Inc.