Oak Island restricts golf cart use on island - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Oak Island enhances enforcement on golf cart restrictions

Oak Island police are no longer allowing golf carts on town streets or sidewalks, even for drivers who are medically handicapped. (Source: WECT) Oak Island police are no longer allowing golf carts on town streets or sidewalks, even for drivers who are medically handicapped. (Source: WECT)
For the Cope family, a golf cart ride has become a daily routine – helping Selena deal with the daily struggles of living a life with autism. (Source: WECT) For the Cope family, a golf cart ride has become a daily routine – helping Selena deal with the daily struggles of living a life with autism. (Source: WECT)
OAK ISLAND, NC (WECT) -

Police in one beach community are starting a new crack down on an old law, and for some families, the after-effects are life changing.

Oak Island police are no longer allowing the use of golf carts on town streets or sidewalks, even for drivers who are medically handicapped who can't otherwise drive.

In the past, owners of golf carts with handicap placards could drive with a passenger on or beside the road in Oak Island. However, according to DMV rules, golf carts have to meet a list of requirements to be "street legal." Now, OIPD officers are stepping up enforcement, much to the dismay of several golf cart owners in town. Clarissa Cope is one of many people who have taken to Facebook with their thoughts and complaints.

For two years, Cope has been the primary care taker for her 5-year-old granddaughter Selena, who has autism. Selena is shy but one thing she loves to do is ride in her special golf cart, heavily decorated with stickers to raise awareness about autism. Cope says that a daily golf cart ride to the Yaupon Fishing Pier to get a lollipop has become a therapeutic routine for the whole family, and especially meaningful for Selena as a release from the daily hardship of living a life with autism.

However, Cope recently learned that her family's favorite "get-a-way" will no longer be allowed in town. Beginning Aug. 1, the Oak Island Police Department announced it will enforce a set of state laws that regulate the use golf carts on streets and sidewalks.

Cope says she will follow the rules but that means she is forced to sell the family cart because the cost of the equipment upgrades required are too great.

"I am heartbroken because this is personal. It was a personal thing to us because Selena is personal to us. The golf cart is personal to us," Cope said. "The stickers, raising awareness was personal to us. So yeah, we were heartbroken."

The rules state, in part, that each vehicle have the proper tires, mirrors, turn signals, and nearly everything that a car must have to be considered "street legal." The owner must also get a license, registration, and insurance. To make matters even more difficult, gas powered carts, like Cope's are not allowed. Only electric carts pass the test.

"If I had known when we got this for her that it would come to this, then I would have got an electric one that could have been converted over in the beginning," said a tearful Cope. "It just hurts that I have to get rid of this one and they can't make any exceptions because this one is special and Selena is special." 

According to Town Manager Steve Foster, the police department is only issuing warnings if they catch people driving in golf carts that aren't "street legal."

However, Foster says the eventual plan is for police to start handing out tickets for violations in the near future.

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