Q: Now that the new golf cart law has become effective, what would you like St. Johns County citizens to know?
A: The state law is now in effect, as of Oct. 1, 2023. This new law prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from operating a golf cart unless they possess a valid Florida learner’s permit or valid driver’s license. Having a learner’s permit requires at least some knowledge of rules of the road, which we are hoping will make drivers and riders safer. 

Q: What are deputies with SJSO doing to enforce this new law?
A: As of yet, we have not issued any citations, but rather we are trying to educate community members about why this new law is important to keep our kids safe. We have a golf cart flier PSA that we have posted to our social media accounts and we have deputies that drive golf carts in some communities so they can stop and educate people. We are just trying to get the message out. This law is not meant to be punitive. 

Q: As background, how did this new law come about?
A: We became aware of an increase in golf cart related incidents involving juveniles (previously, one could operate a golf cart at age 14 on certain roadways with no training on rules of the road). We did some national research and found that there were approximately 13,000 golf cart related accidents that required an emergency room visit (between 2007 – 2017, according to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission). Furthermore, the data showed that 40 percent of these involved children under the age of 16 and half involved children falling out of a moving golf cart.

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We wanted to address this problem not just locally, but statewide, so we reached out to our bill sponsors, Rep. Cyndi Stevenson and Sen. Erin Grall. We met with nearly all legislators last spring and all cabinet members as we advocated for passage of this bill.

Q: Besides the safety component, are there any other advantages to the new law?
A: Now that this is a statewide requirement, some cities and counties had to amend their ordinances to reflect the new law. St. Johns County didn’t have one to amend. With this cohesive law, the statewide tracking mechanism is more uniform and will be able to provide hard, factual data. Golf carts have very few safety features, so in absence of that, we felt we had to step up and are hopeful that this new law will keep our kids safer.

Q: What is the best way for our readers to contact you with any questions or suggestions about this article?

A: They can email me at sheriff@sjso.org or call me at (904) 824-8304. Also, our website, www.sjso.org has a wealth of resources, from alarm registration to Crime Stoppers to our Neighbors app.

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