Sheriffs Put Young Golf Cart Drivers On Notice

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An aerial view of Point Dume.

Citing safety concerns and complaints from residents, local law enforcement officers are launching a ticketing crackdown on underage and unlicensed drivers getting behind the wheel of golf carts and other low-speed vehicles. 

According to residents in the Point Dume area, children are frequently seen driving golf carts and low-speed vehicles (LSVs), creating a safety and legal hazard, most commonly in the Point Dume neighborhood. 

“The windy roads above the beach are busy on the weekends, and especially during summer in Malibu,” said Malibu Public Safety commissioner Marlene Matlow. 

Many use the carts for a quick trip to the Point Dume Village Shopping Center, where the parking lot is usually packed on weekends. 

“The exit is at a very dangerous location on a sloped part of the street on Dume and Heathercliff,” Matlow said. “They fly out of the shopping center and it’s really unsafe.” 

While most Malibu residents own golf carts for easier transpor tation around neighborhoods, some cart owners neglect basic safety rules by letting young ones get behind the wheel or driving on Pacific Coast Highway and other busy streets, according to Lt. James Royal of the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff Station. A lack of understanding laws of the road plays into part of that, he said. 

“Golf carts are not permitted on public streets, however properly equipped low-speed vehicles are,” Royal said. 

The bigger problem the sheriffs are having with golf carts isn’t where the carts are driving, but the ages of the drivers. 

“[The problem is] not really adults driving street legal, it’s the illegal street drivers that are children,” Malibu/Lost Hills Det. David Huelsen said. 

Juveniles cited for driving without a license could face steep penalties that impact their driving record for years, including fines, towing of the vehicle and a delay in obtaining a driver’s license. A parent or legal guardian may also face repercussions alleging negligence if a minor is hurt on a public road, authorities said. 

While it may not be an everyday occurrence, Malibu Tow Company has had its share of business from the small cars. 

“It’s not that often, but the ones they really tow are on the streets or unlicensed,” Malibu Tow owner Adail Gayhart said. 

“We’ve had four or five of them driving on the highway. One time we had a guy drinking and driving down the highway in a cart because he didn’t want to drive his car,” Gayhart recalled. 

Residents are also worried about the safety of the children driving carts and have taken to community-based websites including Nextdoor.com and Facebook to vent their frustrations. 

“People talk about how these kids go to the Point Dume shopping center and drive around laughing and having fun and being reckless,” Matlow said. 

According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, golf carts must comply with certain equipment standards established by the California Highway Patrol to be registered for private on-road use. Registration costs about $40. 

Private neighborhoods have their own rules 

In gated communities and private roads, homeowners associations can create vehicle rules for residents to abide by, Huelsen added, but outside of those communities golf carts cannot operate on public roads. 

Roads where the speed limit is posted under 35 MPH are safe for LSVs, and the vehicle must be registered with the DMV. Both LSVs and golf carts must be registered to operate, regardless of where they operate. 

“We want Malibu residents to drive their low speed vehicles and golf carts but be aware that golf carts are not allowed on public streets. Although low speed vehicles are, please be reminded that all vehicle codes apply, including licensing requirements for driving,” Royal said.