CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – Golf carts have become more prevalent in neighborhoods in and around Charlotte.
Sometimes drivers are taking them on the roads.
Queen City News investigated if their popularity is outpacing the law.
“It is a whole new world,” said Ashley Botero, co-owner of Botero Carts.
“It’s power wheels for adults. That’s a good way of putting it,” said a golf cart owner in Fort Mill
“If you got a good cart that you just bought, this neighbor wants a better cart,” said David Thrasher, General Manager at Paradise Golf Carts. “Nine out of 10 times, you’re trying to keep up with the Jones.”
COVID brought a lot of “new” to our lives.
“Right after COVID, the business really boomed all around the world,” Thrasher said.
However, one unexpected craze that’s here to stay is on-trend, off-course personalized golf carts.
“The personal golf cart industry really is a new segment of the market share,” said Ashley Botero. “15 years ago, people buying golf carts lived on a golf course. They were golfers.”
Botero and her husband opened Botero Carts in Charlotte a few months ago.
They were surprised when their sales surpassed what they were doing in the Sunshine state.
“Florida is a powerhouse for golf carts,” Botero said, “so we are doing almost triple of what we were doing down there, so it was very interesting to see that kind of interest in this area.”
Selling 15-30 carts a week, they’ve seen the customization take off.
When asked how many residents in Masons Bend in Fort Mill have golf carts, resident Joe Toscano said, “I would say close to 25%.”
In neighborhoods like Baxter Village and Masons Bend in Fort Mill, the supped-up golf carts have become a way of life.
“This community has roughly 700 homes plus, it’s just finished out, and the village of Baxter has about 1,500 homes,” Toscano said, “and you’ll see any street in Baxter with multiple carts, and I think it’s just because it’s so much faster.”
But what about safety?
Some neighbors boast it’s a safer way to get around, but with the influx of carts on the road, it might depend on who’s driving and where.
“We are seeing an increase of golf carts in and around our highway,” said North Carolina State Highway Patrol Trooper Jeffrey Swagger.
“Unfortunately, that has resulted in an increase in crashes involving vehicles and golf carts as well.”
Tragically, in June of this year, a five-year-old, 13-year-old, and their dad died in a collision with an alleged drunk driver on Fort Dobbs Road in Statesville.
The driver of the car, Austin Harmon, is facing charges, but Queen City News discovered the golf cart, legally, shouldn’t have been on the road.
“North Carolina allows golf carts on highways, but only when an ordinance has been enacted by a local municipality or government allowing the golf carts on streets or highways in their specific area,” Swagger said.
Iredell County and Statesville don’t have golf cart ordinances, meaning it’s more strict.
Drivers can’t take golf carts on any roads.
Other areas like Charlotte, Tega Cay, and Belmont have their ordinances. All require the driver to be 16 or older and have a valid driver’s license, but some, like Belmont, need a city permit, rearview mirrors, a slow-moving sign or flag on the back of the cart, and other safety features; some of which we didn’t see while driving along Main Street.
Queen City News reached out to multiple law enforcement agencies regarding the enforcement of golf cart ordinances.
Belmont Police said they’ve received an uptick in complaints about drivers’ age and intend to use any violations as a teaching moment.