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Police: Keep golf cart-like vehicles off city streets - Ocean City Sentinel: News

Police: Keep golf cart-like vehicles off city streets

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Posted: Thursday, December 11, 2008 12:00 am

The police department on Monday recommended low speed vehicles (LSVs) and modified golf carts should not be permitted on Ocean City streets, citing several probable safety hazards and concerns.

Aficionados of the battery-powered vehicles advocated LSVs as safe, green alternatives to large gas-guzzling cars and vans.

Sgt. Charles Simonson of the Ocean City Police Department’s Traffic Safety Unit gave a PowerPoint presentation on the safety and laws for operating LSVs on public roads.

Low speed vehicles, although they look very similar and in some cases almost identical to golf carts, are not golf carts. LSVs have four brakes, different suspension, and can attain up to 25 miles per hour. The vehicles may not be operated on roads with speed limits over 25 miles per hour, but with New Jersey Department of Transportation permission, it can be operated on roads with 35 miles per hour speed limits.

LSV licensed drivers must have a valid driver’s license.

Simonson said the vehicles are used “primarily within a retirement or other planned community with golf courses.”

He said the LSVs are compared to motorcycles and bicycles.

“It’s a false sense of security with four wheels and a carlike appearance,” Simonson said.

According to Simonson, the city has 700 to 750 auto accidents a year, with the number one accident being cars hit at a right angle from running through stop signs.

Simonson said batteries in golf carts can catch fire when they’re hit. Injuries to golf cart passengers and drivers would be low spine injury, ejection and blunt trauma to the torso.

He said the golf carts weigh 500 to 800 pounds and have no crumple zones or airbags.

“There is no crash data, no crash testing for LSV or golf cart comparison,” Simonson said. “The LSV goes faster, has seatbelts, lights, horns and registrations. Some LSVs are upgraded golf carts while others are more like motorcycles.”

Simonson said the city should prohibit LSVs or golf carts on the streets. He said 12 people in the city own the vehicles.

Simonson said there’s a danger when people treat the LSVs like cars and put their groceries and children in them, thinking they’ll be safe.

“The concern I have is what will these vehicles be used for. The likelihood they could interact with a motor vehicle and somebody is going to be seriously harmed,” Simonson said.

Councilman Keith Hartzell drives an LSV after visiting Lady Lake, Fla., where that community has a proliferation of the vehicles. Hartzell said in order to prohibit LSVs, the municipality has to prove the roads aren’t safe. He said a registration fee and an orientation on educating proper LSV use would help with safety.

“Our niche is America’s Greatest Family Resort. Part of that is biking and alternative transportation. We’re trying to push all of these things to slow the town down,” Hartzell said.

According to Hartzell, visibility and line of sight are improved with an LSV. He said people are more courteous to LSV drivers.

“People get a hoot out of it and wave you on,” Hartzell said.

Simonson said population and traffic density in Ocean City is larger than in retirement communities with LSVs.

“I’m looking at more traffic, because houses here are a million dollars and people are going to buy these,” Simonson said.

Attorney William Serber, representing Beach Cruisers LLC, a Stone Harbor-based LSV sales and rental business, said the city can ban LSVs if the vehicles “constitute a hazard” in Ocean City.

“I submit it would require an in-depth study and analysis of each of the streets of Ocean City on a street by street basis if you’re thinking about prohibiting them,” Serber said.

Engineer Vince Orlando, retained by Beach Cruisers LLC, said it was “unfair” to label LSVs and modified golf carts as unsafe.

“Bringing these vehicles into the city will have calming effects. They will lessen traffic congestion. It’s a positive Ocean City should be a part of,” Orlando said.

Alan Finkel told council he owns an LSV and put 2,700 miles on it in the past year.

“To me, it’s safe. I use it every day and I’m all over town on it,” Finkel said.

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