Bluffton Rep. sponsors bill to allow golf cart driving at night

astice@islandpacket.comApril 18, 2013 

Bob Sutter, of Lowcountry Golf Cars, shows off an E-Z-GO golf cart equipped with headlights at the Okatie dealership on Thursday.

JAY KARR — Jay Karr Buy Photo

After winning a legislative victory last year that allows golf carts to be driven farther from home, state Rep. Bill Herbkersman is working on another change -- allowing carts to be driven at night.

The Republican representative from Bluffton said he sponsored the bill because residents of Sun City Hilton Head, other gated communities and Old Town Bluffton want to ride after dark.

In October, a law allowing drivers to take their golf carts twice as far -- four miles from a home, business or community gate instead of two miles -- took effect after two years of effort. Residents of Daufuskie Island, where golf carts are the main means of transportation, launched a call-in campaign to the lone senator opposed to the measure, helping the bill sail through the General Assembly.

Herbkersman also tried last year to tack on permission for driving at night, provided the carts have proper headlights and rear lights. However, the measure didn't get enough readings to pass on the last day of the session.

He believes it will this year, however.

The bill is in a subcommittee and has been "getting some traction," Herbkersman said.

"Since we are the 'golf cart kings' in Beaufort County, I think we'll get it through," he added.

Rep. Weston Newton, former Beaufort County Council chairman, also is sponsoring the bill. Newton said he was involved in the discussion on driving golf carts at night while working with the S.C. Association of Counties.

"Mo-peds with proper lights can be used at night, and golf cart owners have requested their vehicles be given similar consideration," Newton said.

Other rules wouldn't change. Golf carts would still only be allowed on roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or less. They must be registered with the state, which costs $5 and requires proof of insurance, and drivers must be at least 16 years old.

Not everyone in Sun City supports the measure. Jean Gilbert, who said she uses her golf cart to buy groceries at the nearby Food Lion, believes it could be risky.

"In downtown Bluffton where the roads are narrow, I would just think it would be dangerous not only for other vehicles, but you've got critters out at night, too," Gilbert said.

Bob Sutter, a salesman at Lowcountry Golf Cars on North Okatie Highway, doesn't believe allowing golf carts to drive at night would be unsafe, noting lighting is standard equipment on carts.

"The traffic on the roads they're allowed on is so slow; you can see a golf cart pretty far out in front of you," Sutter said. "It might be more of a risk to drive at night, but that's also true with automobiles."

Golf carts aren't the only vehicles for which some legislators seek changes.

Rep. Bill Whitmire, R-Walhalla, has introduced legislation to allow all-terrain vehicles the same rights as golf carts. That bill is also in a subcommittee of the Committee on Education and Public Works with the golf cart measure.

Related content

  1. Text of golf cart bill
  2. New S.C. law lets golf carts go farther, June 8, 2012

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