GREENFIELD — Dan Taylor said he was surprised when he was pulled over by a police officer last month while putt-putting at less than 25 mph in a golf cart at Meridian Road and U.S. 40.
Taylor has been tooling around on his cart like this for three years, taking leisurely drives to parks or through neighborhoods. After he picked up his grandson from Weston Elementary School, Taylor said a Greenfield police officer told him for the first time it was against the law to drive a golf cart on city streets.
“He’s just having a bad day,” Taylor told his grandson.
Apparently, other public safety officers also think the slow- moving vehicles are a hazard on thoroughfares intended for cars and trucks. And he is getting pushback from them now that he has asked city and county officials to create local ordinances to allow golf carts to share the roads.
In the last three years, some communities across Indiana have passed such laws. With the high price of gas, seniors especially find it less expensive to take a golf cart on errands than to drive a car.
In 2009, the state Legislature said it’s unlawful to drive a golf cart on a public street unless the city or town adopts a local ordinance regulating the vehicles. Even if a local ordinance is passed, golf carts still cannot travel on state highways like Ind. 9 or U.S. 40; they may only cross them.
In Hancock County, people drive golf carts through neighborhoods or small communities. Even though police officers could technically write a citation or confiscate the golf carts, most of the time the carts and their drivers go unnoticed.
That’s why Taylor was so surprised last month. He said for the last three years, police officers have passed by him in his cart and simply given him a friendly wave.
Taylor has stopped driving his for fear of being pulled over again. Instead, he’s talking to public officials about changing local laws.
Greenfield Police Maj. Derek Towle was approached by Taylor a few weeks ago.
Towle is the city’s traffic safety officer and also a Hancock County Commissioner. Because Taylor lives just south of Greenfield on a county road, he would need both the county and city to create enabling ordinances.
Towle sees red flags.
“There’s no seat belts in those, no anchor point to anchor a seat belt, nothing if they get sideswiped or T-boned in front of something else,” Towle said. “(There’s) nothing to protect them. They’re dangerous to be out mixing with regular car traffic.”
Towle said since the vehicles move slowly, they can be particularly dangerous in high-traffic areas. The size and weight of a traditional vehicle could do a lot of damage to a golf cart and its passengers, he added.
He also doesn’t know how the city would enforce driver’s licenses for golf carts; state law is vague regarding them.
Towle oversees the traffic safety committee for the City of Greenfield, and the group decided at a meeting earlier this month that it would not recommend a golf cart ordinance to the city council. Towle also expressed concern to county commissioners about the issue at a meeting last week.
But Taylor plans to be at the commissioners meeting Dec. 4 to ask the entire board of three to consider his request.
“I’m just trying to get a law passed where I can get out of here and drive it,” said Taylor, standing in his garage. “I respect the law, but at the same time, I want the law to respect me.”
Taylor wrote a list of requirements he’d like to see in a golf cart ordinance: a driver’s license, brake lights, tail lights, turn signals, a horn and a triangle on the back.
Taylor is not a golfer. He said he purchased the cart solely for leisure. He and his wife, Beverly, will use the cart to take their grandchildren trick-or-treating or through neighborhoods. They sometimes make an hour-long drive on county roads to Knightstown.
“There’s times we’ve packed a little cooler, and we’ll sit down and have lunch and talk,” he said.
While Towle said he respects Taylor and believes Taylor will be a safe golf cart driver, others could take advantage of a local golf cart law that would be difficult to enforce.
Others agree. Greenfield Mayor Dick Pasco said while he hates to take away personal rights, he is more concerned about public safety.
Commissioners Brad Armstrong and Tom Stevens said they’d like to hear Taylor’s argument, but they are also surprised Taylor would want to drive on county roads where cars zoom at high rates of speed.
“I can see a lot of potential problems … and it would totally depend on where and why,” Stevens said. “On county roads, I think that’s probably the first I’ve ever heard of. I know a lot of towns around the state have adopted that.”
Fortville, Columbia City, Franklin and Culver are among towns that have passed golf cart ordinances in recent years.
Fortville Town Manager Joe Renner said registration is required to drive a cart there, but nobody has had their cart licensed since the ordinance passed in 2010. Still, officers haven’t cited golf cart drivers.
Indeed, most of the time golf carts in Hancock County go unregulated, even though it’s technically against the law to drive them.
In Wilkinson, a dozen or so people have golf carts, said clerk-treasurer Janette Young. The town has no golf cart ordinance; most folks drive their carts on sidewalks and stay off Ind. 109, she said.
In Shirley, 20 to 30 people drive golf carts, most of them senior citizens trekking to the gas station or post office. One resident even regularly drives his lawn mower through town.
Officer Brian Pryor said police have pulled some carts over when they are driven by children.
Pryor said even though most of the time golf carts are harmless, police officers and town council members have talked about creating an ordinance because carts are becoming so common. He said that ordinance would require a registration fee, an inspection and safety features such as lights.
Towle said setting up such a law for Greenfield or the county would be a lot of trouble.
“I understand (Taylor’s) side of the story,” Towle said. “I want to put myself on both sides of the fence and say, ‘Why would I be an advocate for it? Why would I be against it?’ Ultimately safety tells me, not only for the person driving the golf cart, but also for the general public, it’s unsafe for them to be driving those in the streets.”