A few months ago, a mini-eruption of community angst hit New Point when the town marshal began issuing tickets for folks driving — illegally — on the town streets in their golf carts.

A conveniently overlooked law — much like unlicensed motorized two-wheelers — golf carts are becoming a point of interest for law enforcement officers across America.

Rather than an exception, the New Point enforcement is merely ahead of the coming curve of ticketing.

In Decatur County, there is no specific law other than the general one about any unlicensed vehicle and the accompanying attention to any motorized transport meeting general safety rules of the road.

Peg Polanski, the county attorney said no specific changes are needed in the law. All that need to happen is for law enforcement to continue to enforce existing laws.

County Sheriff Daryl Templeton said he is unaware there is any burgeoning need for specific instructions to his patrol men as far as enforcement. “It is no big deal” in the county, he said.

City police officials were not available for comment for this story.

Nationally, the trend seems to be an outgrowth of the use of golf carts as modes of transportation at construction sites or at large manufacturing plants. Campers, boaters and folks with big yards use them to get around.

The problem is the problems posed for communities struggling to regulate such low-speed and often vulnerable vehicles.

Many states have regulations that allow carts on roads only with speed limits up to 35 mph, according to the American Automobile Association. Five states prohibit low-speed vehicles on all public roads: Connecticut, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Most states require golf carts to be registered. They must have seat belts, turn signals, headlights, brake lights and other safety features to be street legal.

Cities often enact more specific regulations, like North Myrtle Beach, S.C., which allows carts on secondary roads during daylight and within two miles of the owner’s residence.

Golf carts have shared the roads in Palm Desert, Calif., since 1998, using bike lanes to get around. About 100 golf carts are registered in the city of 50,000 residents, transportation engineer Mark Diercks said. They’ve had just one reported accident involving a driver without a permit.

Peachtree City, Ga., has an 80-mile network of nine-foot wide asphalt paths for golf carts. The city of 36,000 outside Atlanta has 9,000 registered golf carts and its high school even has special parking for 150 carts.

“It’s just sort of boomed,” city spokeswoman Betsy Tyler said.

The trend started simply enough — people who golfed wanted to drive their carts home, Tyler said.

Golf carts are permitted on Peachtree City streets and are allowed to cross state highways at designated places. There have been several serious accidents, but no deaths, she said.

“We’ve tried to incorporate a system of bridges and tunnels so there’s not a lot of crossing,” Tyler said.

Recently, Surprise, Ariz., limited golf carts to roads where the speed limit is no greater than 35 mph because they were causing traffic jams, puttering along on 45 mph roads, police Chief Dan Hughes said.

Leading golf cart seller E-Z-GO has seen an increase in its private cart market in recent years, company spokesman Ron Skenes said. Much of the sales are to people living in retirement or gated communities.

“As the population is aging and more people are retiring to these types of communities, they’re wanting their own car,” he said.

They also want comfort and style.

“It’s the Jones system. You’ve always got to outdo your neighbor,” said James Powell, operations manager for Lake Erie Golf Cars in Solon, Ohio.

In four years, his shop has customized hundreds of carts, for instance, increasing its color offerings to 1,500.

“Before you got white or you got green,” Powell said.

Customers have spent up to $20,000 installing televisions, stereos, oversized tires, neon lights and custom rims. Powell’s shop can customize a golf cart to look like anything from a Hummer to an old-fashioned roadster.

Powell said electric golf carts save drivers from going the pump and even the ones with gasoline engines are fuel-efficient.

Most golf carts travel only 12-14 mph, but he can equip them to go up to 25 mph.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report).

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