For most golf buggy drivers, their biggest worries include errant golf balls, low batteries, and slow groups holding up the course. Drivers in the Gold Coast district of Queensland, however, have another worry to add to their list: the golf cart police. Using customised high-performance all-terrain vehicles, the police in the affluent Links Hope Island resort have been cracking down on drunk, distracted and unlicensed drivers who’ve treated their golf carts as an excuse to flaunt the law.
The Crackdown on the Links Hope Island Resort
On September 7, 2017, police patrolled the buggy pathway between the Links Hope Island resort and the Marina Shopping Village. In one six-hour crackdown, constables issued a number of citations to golf buggy drivers. Amongst other offences, drivers were cited for driving drunk, underage driving, driving while using a mobile phone, and driving while in possession of drugs.
Community police requested access to the ATVs to conduct their crackdown after receiving numerous complaints of dangerous golf cart drivers from area residents. Depending on the volume of complaints they receive in the future, the police aren’t ruling out future crackdowns in the resort as well as the nearby Hope Island and Sanctuary Cove communities.
The vehicles, which include modified Yamaha Rhino ATVs, are available to assist the Gold Coast police in patrolling and enforcing the law in areas that are inaccessible to regular police vehicles. In all, the Gold Coast district has 10 ATVs available for its officers. In addition to the Rhino ATVs, which are modified for extra durability and safety, the district also owns a pair of Mule ATVs. The Mules are a new addition to the police fleet and offer seating for six uniformed officers, allowing the police to project more force into previously inaccessible locations. Of course, all of the Gold Coast police golf buggies are equipped with flashing lights and a special police paint job.
Why Was the Crackdown Necessary?
Normally, golf carts are restricted to golf courses unless they’ve been specially registered for use as road vehicles. This is especially true of imported golf carts, which aren’t allowed to be imported in road-ready condition, although owners can later modify their carts to be street-legal. Unlike the United States, which offers a separate vehicle class for low-speed electric vehicles like golf carts, Australian law doesn’t provide for any special regulations or exceptions for golf carts.
However, in the Links Hope Island resort, which is situated around a golf course, many residents and visitors own their own golf carts. Rather than taking petrol vehicles around the resort, these residents simply drive their carts across trails and into the shopping village to meet with their friends and neighbours at the local restaurants and bars. Residents are allowed to use their golf carts off-course like this, but they are required to follow the road laws, register their vehicles and carry permits.
Many golf cart drivers ignore these rules. Local residents have complained about a number of issues with golf cart drivers, including excessive speed and underage drivers. Some of these owners act as though the laws of the road don’t apply since they’re not travelling on the main roads, but they’re required to follow driving laws just the same as regular drivers.
Local Reactions are Mixed
Some residents were thrilled at the golf cart crackdown. Russell Hornby, a resident of Hope Island, expressed his thanks for the crackdown, remarking that the golf cart drivers were, “an accident waiting to happen.” Many of the golf carts are electric and don’t make much noise as they travel along the paths. Pedestrians can easily be caught off-guard by a speeding golf cart, leading to a dangerous situation. The drivers are no safer from themselves; just last year, a 21-year-old man died after falling from his golf cart.
Other residents weren’t as approving. Some consider the police ATVs a waste of police resources afforded to well-heeled residents; they feel that the police would be better off investing in more traditional resources to better combat the problems facing Gold Coast at large. Others believe that the golf cart patrols are an unnecessary government intrusion and that the golf cart drivers should be allowed to endanger themselves.
Many of the local businesses in the Marina Shopping Village recognise the dangers of the golf cart drivers and have worked together to provide other options for drunk or impaired drivers. On Fridays and Saturdays, one of the local taverns offers a shuttle bus service to the Links Hope Island resort, and the Intercontinental Sanctuary Cove Resort offers transportation services to its visitors.
Golf carts may not seem like impressive vehicles, but golf cart drivers can run afoul of the law just like any other drivers. If you find yourself pulled over by a member of the Gold Coast golf cart police, remember to comply with your local laws and cooperate with the officers.