Ocracoke roads are shared with vehicles, runners, walkers, animals, skateboarders and more. So it is crucial that golf cart drivers obey the traffic laws to keep everyone safe. Photo: C. Leinbach

By Connie Leinbach

Ocracoke, while indeed magical, is not a place where the traffic rules don’t apply.

It’s a vacation destination and it’s cool to be able to get around a place on a golf cart.

“The tourists love it,” said Miggy O’Neal, who with her husband Rex owns Wheelie Fun Golf Carts. “It’s easier for them to get around the village and park.”

Golf carts are an attraction that most people living back in the world don’t get a chance to enjoy.

But golf carts are not amusement park toys, say the Hyde County Sheriff deputies on Ocracoke, but after some customers sign their rental contracts, they seem to forget the rules of the road.

This photo, while of a special situation—the Black Lives Matter march on Ocracoke in June 2020–shows what NOT to do on golf carts. Do not stand up on golf carts. Photo: C. Leinbach

Not all, of course.

“Ninety-five percent of the people who rent follow the rules,” O’Neal said. “And 95 percent of us make our money off tourists and we want to make them happy so that they’ll come back.”

The cart rental companies explain the rules and Island Golf Carts even places stickers with the rules across their cart windshields.

Still, the attitude with some drivers is, “Whatever,” said Jay Neal, a Hyde County deputy. “It’s just Ocracoke; it’s just a golf cart.”

But just like cars, North Carolina law says you have to be 16 to drive a golf cart. However, Island Golf Carts has gone a step further and upped the driving age to 18. This is their insurance requirement.

The following are just SOME of the rules of the road that golf cart drivers need to follow:

  • Make full stops at stop signs (these aren’t “yield” signs).
  • It’s illegal for children under the age of 16 (and in some cases 18) to drive golf carts and those under age 16 cannot sit on an adult’s lap and drive.
  • Use hand signals for turning.
  • Do not drink and drive.
  • Children less than eight, or less than 80 pounds, must be in the proper child restraint.
  • Car seats must be buckled in.
  • All headlights and rear lights must work.
  • Everyone on the cart has to sit. No one can stand.

That’s how people can fall off and bump their heads, Neal said about the last item. “We’ve had two fatalities on golf carts,” he said. “Do you want to be number three?”

The island has been lucky there haven’t been more serious accidents with golf carts.

“But we don’t want to be unlucky this year,” Neal said.

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