TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A new Florida law took effect Sunday that requires teens to have a learner’s permit at 15 years old or driver’s license at 16 years old in order to legally operate a golf cart.
Before the new law, 14 year olds were allowed to drive a golf cart on public roads in Florida.
On Davis Islands, it is hard to drive around and not spot a golf cart.
“It’s so easy to get around the islands,” 15-year-old J.D. Haughey said. “It’s not very big, but it’s so much more convenient to have a golf cart to get around everywhere.”
Haughey got his learner’s permit three months ago. He said he recently learned about the new state law that makes him just old enough to operate his parents’ golf cart.
“Me, my dad and my brother were watching News Channel 8 and we heard that they said now it’s under 18, you can have a learners permit and you can drive the golf cart legally now,” Haughey said.
Last weekend, Dr. Meghan Martin said Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg admitted its 17th trauma patient from a golf cart injury since the start of the year.
“The child had a head injury and they did have a small bleed on the brain,” Dr. Martin said. “We’re doing best to take care of them, but it’s a concerning thing.”
Dr. Martin points out the golf cart lacks the safety features in cars, like doors, seatbelts and airbags, which is part of the reason she said Florida lawmakers got it right when they passed this new law.
“This is a good call for the kids in our communities,” she said. “We are seeing significant increase in golf cart injuries over the last couple of years.”
Haughey said he agrees that the new golf cart law should make the roads safer for everyone.
“I feel like high school comes with a lot more maturity, too,” he said.
Haughey said he is used to seeing children younger than him drive golf carts on Davis Islands, but he believes with a little enforcement that could change.
Violates of the new law will receive a non-criminal traffic infraction with a fine of up to $108.