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Could you be arrested the next time you ride in a golf cart?

By Rob Bradley, CBS Local 2 Meteorologist, rob.bradley@kesq.com
Published On: Feb 20 2014 07:30:00 PM CST
Golf Cart Road Sign
PALM DESERT, Cali. -

For many people in the Coachella valley, a golf cart is the only way to drive. In an area that boasts an annual golf cart parade it's not surprising that for some it's the primary mode of transportation.

Earl Link lives in Sun City and owns and operates his own golf cart. "Well, normally it's just around the community and on the golf course," Link says. "I make a run over here once in a while to the market which is pretty handy."

Douglas Cohen is another Sun City cart commuter. He tells us, "I just take my time, you know, and I don't try to set any speed records or dare devil."

But, whether you drive a golf cart on or off the course, you probably broke the law while riding around.

Riverside County Sheriff's Deputy Armando Munoz explains, "People make the assumption that because it's a golf cart, they don't consider it a vehicle. California vehicle code does consider a golf cart a vehicle. So it has to have a windshield, brake lights, mirrors, turn signals, red light indicators in the rear. Anything that a vehicle that's driven in a public road, same applies to a golf cart."

And, like a vehicle, any time the keys are in the ignition you can face D.U.I. charges.
Just last month police arrested a La Quinta man after a drunk passenger fell out of his cart during The Humana Challenge.

Deputy Munoz continues, "You can have a DUI on a golf course, you can have a DUI in a country club, but when you're out in the public you're putting yourself in danger and others in danger as well. If you're going to be drinking, same rules apply. If you have someone that's not drinking, designate a driver, if you're going to go out into the public or even in a golf course or a country club."

If you're going to operate a golf cart outside of a course you need a valid driver's license, a permit from your city, and you are required to wear a seat belt.

Kris Anna Jeffery is also a Sun City golf cart owner, who rides her golf cart to the grocery store every so often. "I don't wear the seat belt, we have seat belts but I don't wear them when I come into this parking lot and I'm sure I should," Jeffery says.

Each city that allows golf carts outside of courses has specific roads and sidewalks the carts can operate on. For the roads that do allow golf carts, speed limits must be 25 miles per hour or less.

Cohen says he's weary of driving on the road, mostly because of other drivers. "I wouldn't take these golf carts out on the street, no way. I stay on the sidewalk," Cohen tells us.

Most infractions incurred in golf carts result in fines of $100 or less, but D.U.I. charges are just as steep as those given in full size vehicles.

You may think all these rules are a bit much for golf carts, but 15,000 people in the united states go to the hospital as a result of golf cart related injuries every year, and yes, some are even deadly.

"A couple weeks ago I got clipped," Cohen recalls, "just missed me by this much and I honked my horn and they just, kept on going."

Most of the deaths don't result from crashes with other vehicles, but from passengers falling out or from carts tipping over. Last September, a 10-year-old boy was killed in West Hollywood when the golf cart he was riding in overturned.

"Now that I've talked to you I think I'm going to put the seat belt on her on the way home," Jeffery says.

Since the same rules apply to golf carts, that also means no texting while carting.

City websites have maps where golf carts can be operated legally on or off the street, as well as everything you need to know to get your cart up to speed and street legal. Click on any of the following links for the city you want information for.

Rancho Mirage
http://www.ranchomirageca.gov/content_files/pdf/residents/things_to_do/golf_cart_travel_brochure.pdf

http://www.ranchomirageca.gov/content_files/pdf/golf-cart-regulations.pdf

Palm Desert
http://www.cityofpalmdesert.org/index.aspx?page=225

Indio
http://www.indio.org/index.aspx?page=523

La Quinta
http://www.la-quinta.org/Index.aspx?page=596