BLUFFTON, SC (WTOC) - South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley signed a bill earlier this week that will change the way some people in the Lowcountry get around town.
The bill basically says if you have a golf cart, you can now drive it at night as long as it has the proper nighttime equipment. For communities like Old Town Bluffton, the bill would be very helpful.
The town deals with constant issues with parking and traffic, but if everyone could ditch their full-sized automobile for a golf cart, that traffic might flow a little easier. Right now, golf carts are permitted from sun up to sun down. The driver must have a valid license, and the carts are only permitted on roads with speed limits of 35 miles-per-hour or less.
With the new bill, the only rule that will change is the 'sun up to sun down,' because now, you'll be able to drive your cart at night, if and only if, it has rear and front lights.
We spoke with Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka, who says the bill would actually be a great addition to towns like Bluffton, which see a lot of carts during the day but not a lot of cars at night.
For starters, more than one golf cart can fit in the standard parking spots already in Old Town, which would allow more people to park and access the area.
By making Old Town more appealing for visitors and residents, who usually bypass it because of traffic and parking issues, the use of golf carts would also help boost the economy.
"Sometimes we park a long distance away and have to walk a long distance. If you buy anything you have to walk a long distance to the car and sometimes you have to make more than one trip to get to the car with what you bought," said Joyce Wilson, golf cart driver.
Mayor Sulka says one limitation of the carts is that it could add to traffic problems, because golf carts don't exceed 35 miles-per-hour, so people might find their commutes taking longer if they're stuck behind a pack of carts.
At this point, it will be up to Beaufort County government to review the areas that would be eligible for golf cart use at night.
There is some concern about the carts' low speeds during heavy travel times, which drivers say merely come down to compromise.
"I think golf cart people need to observe and keep an eye on that. Tt is possible to find a spot to pull over and let cars go by if there's one or two backed up," said Wilson.
But a little traffic is a small price to pay for those who say golf carts offer a sense of independence.
"We have older senior citizens who cannot or don't feel comfortable driving their cars anymore so they'll have their golf carts to get to the store, the doctors and places like that. So that's a great advantage," said Carol Yarber, Peachtree City resident.
The county council plans to take up the agenda item within the next two months.