Blame the reason on increased vehicular traffic, or maybe the influx of snowbirds unfamiliar with The Villages’ unique “rules-of-the-road.” Or, maybe it’s due to the “graying” of drivers with diminishing eyesight, or a society that’s no longer patient or as hospitable.
Perhaps, that’s why reports in the Villages-News.com about car-vs-golf cart accidents in The Villages have become all-to-commonplace.
“There have been six fatalities involving golf carts in The Villages in the past two years,” said Sumter County Deputy Sheriff Richard Bennett, one of the presenters at the VHA’s Golf Cart Safety Clinic, Wednesday at the Savannah Recreation Center.
He emphasized that golf carts are not toys but motor vehicles, that must adhere to the same rules as cars.
“It’s a criminal offense for drivers to travel over a golf cart’s maximum speed limit of 20 miles per hour,” he stated. “Get caught, and they will receive a $265 fine that must be paid at the Sumter County Court.”
Much of his presentation centered on the proper way to navigate around The Villages’ roundabouts. Picturing the face of a clock, drivers entering from the “6 o’clock position” must know which is the proper lane to either make a right-hand turn, proceed straight, or continue around the circle and exit at “9 o’clock.”
Bennett’s explanation was particularly helpful to new Villa De La Mesa resident Ed Carroll.
“I just bought a golf cart and wanted to understand The Villages’ rules and safety procedures that are unfamiliar to us,” said the Ontario, Canada native.
The morning program began with a VHA-produced, introductory video about The Villages’ roadways and multi-modal paths designed that provide access for carts throughout the community, as well as a description of insurance options, and maintenance check-lists for both gas and electric-powered vehicles.
This was followed by Sumter County Court Judge Paul Militello.
“We process some 1,300 tickets every year. Many are for drivers in The Villages who improperly traveled through the rotaries. I’m glad to see you here, or sitting on juries. Not so glad when you’re standing before me at the bench,” he cautioned.
Differences between low-speed vehicles and golf carts were highlighted throughout the program. The former are Street Legal and require a licensed driver, registration and insurance. Carts can be driven by anyone over the age of 14, but are not permitted on roads with speed limits above 35 mph.
The VHA conducts safety clinics throughout the year as well as Wednesday’s special presentation held annually at Savannah Center. Their clinics feature the services of American sign-language interpreters.
“The VHA, now referred to as the Villages Homeowners Advocacy group, sponsors several public service programs throughout the year,” said Fred Briggs, VHA president. Additional guidance about golf cart safety and navigating though rotaries along with information about upcoming events are available at the VHA website, thevha.net