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Published: Monday, 10/29/2001

Swift golf carts raise concerns at Put-in-Bay


PUT-IN-BAY - First they told tourists and local residents to buckle up on golf carts. Now, they're telling them to slow down.

Some island officials have asked the state to impose a 20 mph speed limit for road-licensed golf carts, which have been clocked at speeds of up to 50 mph on South Bass Island roads.

“This is an issue of public safety,” Put-in-Bay Mayor John Blatt said. “My concern is we have too many accidents involving golf carts.”

Mr. Blatt and Put-in-Bay Police Chief James Lang recently went to Columbus to plead their case before attorneys with the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Afterward, they approached the Ottawa County commissioners for assistance.

The commissioners, in turn, have sent letters of support to the Ohio Department of Public Safety and state Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green) and Rep. Chris Redfern (D., Catawba Island).

Ashley Ellis, a spokeswoman for the state's Department of Public Safety, said there is nothing in the Ohio Revised Code that mentions speed limits for golf carts.

She said a speed limit would have to be set by a local ordinance and enforced by a local police department. The Bureau of Motor Vehicles is charged only with regulatory functions such as issuing licenses and titles, Ms. Ellis said.

But Mr. Blatt said he doesn't want island police to begin ticketing speeders in golf carts - a popular method of transportation among tourists - because golf carts don't have speedometers.

Instead, Mr. Blatt said he would like the state to stop licensing golf carts that are able to exceed a 20 mph speed limit. This would be the best way to keep them off the road, he said.

“We could stop them, but would that be nice? We're all in the tourist business somewhere,” Mr. Blatt said. “We don't want to ruin the ability for families to get around the island. It keeps the families together.”

Currently, most golf cart manufacturers install speed regulators on the vehicles so they won't have to meet low-speed vehicle safety requirements set forth by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Carts that go faster than 20 mph are subject to stricter rules, such as the need for turn signals and rear-view mirrors.

Golf cart restrictions and requirements are not foreign topics for Put-in-Bay officials.

In July, 1996, village council approved legislation that allows police to ticket backseat passengers - in addition to those in front seats - who do not use seat belts.

But Mr. Blatt admitted that the regulation is difficult to enforce because police cannot legally stop golf cart operators just for a suspected seat belt violation. He said they have to see another traffic violation before they can cite them.

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