Wake County

Wake Forest considers whether to allow golf carts on town streets

A golf cart once owned by Riverside Bank is shown in this undated photo released to the media on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2009.
A golf cart once owned by Riverside Bank is shown in this undated photo released to the media on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2009. Via Bloomberg

Chad Casale didn’t think he was doing anything wrong when he drove his golf cart from the Wake Forest Reservoir to his home in the Traditions subdivision.

But after he parked the cart on his front lawn, he said, a Wake Forest police officer showed up and gave him a verbal warning.

Golf carts are prohibited on town streets in Wake Forest, but town leaders are now considering whether to allow them. Earlier this year, some residents, including Casale, asked the Board of Commissioners to make the change.

“We’re not talking about putting golf carts on (N.C.) 98,” Casale said. “We just want to be within the letter of the law, and we want to do things safely.”

On Tuesday, members of the Wake Forest Police Department urged town leaders to not allow golf carts, saying they would put people in danger.

“Golf carts on the roadway is not a smart thing to do, just for the safety of our citizens,” Police Capt. Darren Abbacchi said.

Several board members expressed concerns about safety, and they asked for information about the frequency and types of incidents involving golf carts.

Wake Forest police issued one citation involving a golf cart between June 1, 2013, and May 31, 2016, according to spokesman Bill Crabtree. In April 2015, a driver of a golf cart was cited for driving while impaired and driving with a revoked license.

Some other North Carolina towns, including Holly Springs, Pittsboro, Benson, Pinehurst and Morganton, allow golf carts on town roads, said Wake Forest Mayor Vivian Jones. She said she supports the change.

In Holly Springs, licensed drivers over the age of 18 are allowed to operate inspected and registered golf carts on streets with speed limits under 25 mph.

North Carolina law has a special classification for electric vehicles that travel up to 25 mph and have equipment such as headlights, windshields, speedometers, parking brakes and seat belts. The “low speed vehicles” are permitted on state roads that have posted speed limits of 35 mph or slower.

Abbacchi said golf carts are designed to be used on golf courses and lack necessary safety features for street use.

An online forum created by the town has more than 70 comments from people weighing in on whether golf carts are appropriate in Wake Forest.

“Car crashes occur, should we ban cars?” wrote James Tyndall.

“Unfortunately, physical activity is not an option for everyone. There are many proponents of this slight change in the ordinance that have physical disabilities, family members with disabilities, injuries from service of our country, aging parents and grandparents,” wrote Man Leete.

Some people said they weren’t in favor of changing the rule.

“I would vote no,” wrote Amy Kearnes. “Considering that people rarely follow speed limits (especially in neighborhoods) and many are not at all considerate of cyclists and mopeds. Also, considering the amount of growth and traffic that is projected for Wake Forest I think it would make our roads unsafe.”

Casale said he still drives his golf cart to take his children to the pool and to other parts of the neighborhood. He seldom crosses Traditions Grande Boulevard to visit the Wake Forest Reservoir.

Casale, who unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the Board of Commissioners last year, said he understands that safety is paramount, but he thinks there’s a safe way to allow golf carts on low-speed streets.

Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4892, @ReporterCioffi