Collier County may allow driving golf carts on public roads in Isles of Capri

A sign welcomes drivers to Isles of Capri in Collier County, Florida, on Sept. 9.

Collier County is evaluating roadways to determine if golf carts can be operated safely in Isles of Capri following a petition from residents, according to a county spokesperson.

"The study includes an evaluation of the roadway geometric, traffic volume, speeds, sight distance [and] crash data," Connie Deane, community liaison, wrote in an email to the Eagle. "At this time a determination has not been made."

If the determination is positive, then the item would go the Board of County Commissioners for their approval, according to Deane. 

"If the board's determination is to accept the findings of the study then they would direct the county attorney to advertise for a public hearing," Deane said. 

In a second meeting the board would then approve the ordinance if there are no objections.

Ann Hall, member of Capri Community Inc. (CCI), said residents have historically used golf carts to travel within the isles. 

"Since the late '50s, there has always been people riding golf carts," Hall said. "People like to ride them to the restaurants and to visit neighbors."

"It's a very island thing to do."

In 2007, the county rejected a similar petition from Capri after finding that drivers of all types of vehicles were not following speed limits, according to Hall.

Hall said Capri initially petitioned the county after some residents allowed young teens to drive golf carts by themselves, prompting the Collier County Sheriff's Office to intervene.

"Safety is the main concern," Hall said.

Sisters Debbie Bratz and Susan Marrero have fun at the parade lineup. On Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 2017, Capri residents gathered for the 10th Annual Golf Cart Parade.

The Capri community has done a Christmas golf cart parade for more than 10 years but this is the first time CCI requested a special event permit to the county, according to Hall.

Hall said CCI made the request to encourage drivers to come because some might not participate in order to avoid traffic fines.

The operation of golf carts on public roads is prohibited in Florida except when a county or municipality allows it, according to state law

Local government entities must first determine that golf carts may safely travel on or cross the public road, considering factors like speed, volume and character of motor vehicle traffic.

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After a positive determination, the counties and municipalities have to post signs to indicate that the operation of golf carts are allowed.

The county and the state define golf carts as motor vehicles that are designed and manufactured for operation on a golf course for sporting or recreational purposes and that are not capable of exceeding speeds of 20 miles per hour.

The state does not require golf carts to be titled, registered or be insured but local governments can enact more restrictive ordinances, according to the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles' (FLHSMV) website. A golf cart operator is also not required by the state to have a driver license but they must be 14 years or older.

Golf carts are already allowed on some public roads in Goodland, Ave Maria, Chokoloskee Island and Plantation Island, according to the county's code of ordinances.

Golf cart operators in these communities must be at least 16-years-old and hold a valid driver's license, according to the code. The owners of these vehicles must purchase and maintain liability insurance for personal injury and damage to property.

For now, golf carts and other low speed vehicles will continue to be an important part of Capri's mode of transportation. 

"It is part of our island karma," Hall said.

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