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Golf carts causing frustration, accidents

ANNA MARIA ISLAND – With parking at a premium on the Island, many visitors are turning to golf cart rentals for vacation transportation, and the increase is causing frustration for visitors and residents and an increase in accidents.

“I don’t understand how it’s legal to drive these things on the road,” said Linda Ruckman of Anna Maria. “If the speed limit is 35 and these carts only go 20 miles per hour, how is that legal? I work in Bradenton Beach and it takes forever to get there because I’m always stuck behind at least one cart going well below the speed limit.”

Unfortunately for Ruckman and others annoyed by the carts driving under the speed limit, there is little that can be done. Detective Sgt. Lenard Diaz of the Bradenton Beach Police Department and Chief William Tokajer of the Holmes Beach Police Department both state that it is legal for the carts to drive under the speed limit as long as they are properly registered and operated by a licensed driver.

“Legally, they are OK at any speed, so there isn’t much any of the police departments can do about that,” Tokajer said, noting that there have been more cart-related accidents this year than normal, including a hit and run that left a woman driving a golf cart in serious condition requiring surgery.

“Because of the uptick in accidents, our department is currently running enhanced enforcement,” he said. “We’re checking for seatbelts being buckled, child seat use and other violations. If you aren’t using the carts properly and safely, you will be ticketed.”

“We recently had a collision where the cart driver was ejected from the cart because he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt,” Diaz said. “We treat golf carts just like higher speed vehicles, they are subject to the same laws, so even though they may be going slower than people would like, if they merge into the bike lane to wave cars past, they are committing a traffic offense and will be pulled over.”

Tokajer echoed Diaz’ statement, saying his department will ticket carts driving in the bike lane.

Cart accident
A cart came to rest on a dune over 200 feet from the scene of a collision with a sedan at the intersection of Gulf Drive and Cortez Road in Bradenton Beach. – Jason Schaffer | Sun

The lack of golf cart rentals also is causing frustration for visitors. Jamie Carte, who is staying with his wife and two children in Bradenton Beach, decided to fly into Tampa and have a friend in the area drive them to the Island. The plan was to rent a golf cart since the family had no intentions of leaving the Island during their stay. Unfortunately, what should have been an easy fix turned into a big headache for the family. 

“It took a lot of searching to even find a cart on a week’s notice, but once we did it looked like it was going to be great. It was parked in front of our rental unit when we arrived and looked brand new,” said Carte, whose experience took an unfortunate turn for the worse.

Golf cart pic
Jamie Carte and family with their golf cart in Bradenton Beach. – Jason Schaffer | Sun

“The second time we jumped on the cart, it broke down a block from the condo,” he said. “The rental company came and picked it up then called the next day and said it couldn’t be easily fixed and no replacement was available.”

After being issued a full refund, it took the Carte family two days of searching to secure another golf cart, which left them to rely solely on public transportation for almost half of their stay on the Island.

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