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Golf carts take to the streets
Spiking gas prices have driven some resourceful commuters to complete more than a round of 18 holes in their golf carts.
"Based on 11 cents per kilowatt hour, it comes out to 3 cents per mile to drive a cart," said Greg Nelson, owner of West Coast Golf Cart in Yuma. "Even the Yuma Police Department is using golf carts."
The YPD began using golf carts to patrol the wetlands parks seven years ago to provide greater mobility options, according to Officer Clint Norred, YPD spokesman.
"They're street legal, but for us it's a utility type thing to handle off-road terrain where a police car can't get to," Norred said. "It was not in response to the rising cost of gas but it's a useful thing to have."
But before that golf cart can leave the lush green fairway for the blacktop, the typical golf cart must have all the required safety equipment, cautioned Nelson.
To be "street ready," they must include windshield, rear-view mirror, turn signal lights, brake lights, electric horn, four-way flashers, license plate and license plate light. They also need seat belts if they go more than 20 mph, but unless the power is increased, they typically do only 17 mph.
The cost for a street-ready 2002 E-Z-Go golf cart with new seats and paint would be $2,900. A new one costs $5,800.
"I just called Geico (insurance company) and they quoted me $50 a year for insurance," Nelson said.
However, anyone who wants to drive a street-ready golf cart must first have it registered at the state Motor Vehicle Division, according to Maj. Leon Wilmot, Yuma County Sheriff's Office spokesman.
Although they can go on city streets, carts are not allowed on highways requiring a minimum speed of 45 mph. And if anyone who does not have insurance or registration is stopped by an officer, their golf cart will be immediately impounded for 30 days, Wilmot cautioned.
Sales of golf carts this year are up 35 percent, Nelson said. And every golf cart he sells includes a charger that is "very user-friendly" One cable from the charger plugs into an outlet under the driver's seat and the other cable goes to any standard 115-volt household outlet.
After use for 30 hours, a full recharge will take four to five hours and can be done as little as once a week, but it is recommended on a daily basis. Batteries should be filled with distilled water and a tire pressure check done once a month, along with an annual servicing.
Nelson pointed out that he is selling way more golf carts to street users than golfers, who comprise just 25 percent of his business. They are popular among seniors, especially those who reside in recreational vehicle parks, and he sold over 300 golf carts to Cocopah Bend RV Park alone, he recalled.
"I've met seniors who are stuck on the porch and given up on life because they couldn't walk long distances," Nelson said. "But with a cart they've revived their lease on life."
And being able to get around conveniently is a major concern for retirees, noted Priscilla and Michael Aitken. They live in Ligurta Estates, about 8-1/2 miles from Wellton.
Priscilla, who considered getting a motorized bicycle, prefers the cart because it provides shade from the sun. She relies on the cart for routine shopping.
"Oh, I love it," she said. "I had a dune buggy and I sold it and got this instead."
Michael, a retired maintenance electrician who also uses the golf cart, said a round trip to Wellton takes 10 minutes by truck but 30 by golf cart, yet his truck burns $4 of fuel while the cart costs only 46 cents.
"Gas is going to do nothing but go up, probably to $5 a gallon next year," he said. "Being on a fixed income, I've got more time than money. I think the way things go, people will have to think about a change of lifestyle. The carts don't pollute and are a lot cheaper to run down the road."
William Roller can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6858.