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State lawmaker’s bill brings golf cart traffic rules to the fore

SUN CITY – John Dockham spends a lot of time on his teal blue golf cart, traveling to the store, doctor, bank, restaurants and his job as a golf ranger.

“Actually, I think I like the golf carts better than the cars, especially for older folks,” he said.

With cars also in the mix, he’d prefer to drive on a paved shoulder when one is available. But he’s wary that Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies last summer handed out tickets to those doing so.

“So now you drive on the road itself and you’re blocking traffic a lot of times because they are going faster than 25 or 30 miles an hour. So it causes a problem,” he said.

Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, whose district includes the Sun City area, has introduced a bill that would allow golf carts and similar electric vehicles to drive as close to the right edge of roadways as possible in Maricopa County’s age-restricted communities.

“The legislation clarifies law so that golf cart drivers can continue to drive their golf carts like they have done since 1960 – in Sun City – when Sun City was formed,” she told the House Transportation Committee on Jan. 23.

The committee unanimously endorsed HB 2027, forwarding it to the House floor by way of the Rules Committee.

Board members from the Sun City Home Owners Association and the Sun City West Property Owners and Residents Association turned out to support Lesko’s bill.

“Our traffic laws should not encourage or force drivers to drive in unsafe matters, and unfortunately our current laws do,” said John Merkel, with the Sun City West group.

“We have traffic going through Sun City now that are not Sun City residents, and those people, for whatever reason, don’t have quite as much patience with the elderly folk,” said James Stark, president of the Sun City group. “And it has created somewhat of a hazard, especially when the golf carts have been forced back into the main line of traffic.”

Jim Powell, vice president and chairman of the Sun City group’s transportation committee, said being able to use golf carts draws seniors to Sun City.

“One of the reasons my wife and I bought a retirement home in Sun City is so we could ride our golf cart on the streets to our eight different golf courses, to the store, to the doctor’s office, almost any place in Sun City, and you could do it there safely by driving on the right side of the road,” he said.

Even though the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office hasn’t ticketed for driving on the shoulder since last summer, Lesko said her discussions with area leaders convinced her that there needs to be a law allowing the practice in Maricopa County’s age-restricted communities.

“We all came together and said, you know what, we really need legislation to clarify this, to do what a majority of the people in Sun City want and what’s safe for the people,” she said.

With his golf cart parked at one of Sun City’s golf courses, Dockham said a law would ease his mind as he navigates the streets.

“I like the idea of being able to drive on the side of the road and be protected by that white line,” he said. “I think it’s only smart.”

About HB 2027:

• Author: Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria

• Key provision: Would allow golf carts and similar electric vehicles to drive as close to the right edge of roadways in Maricopa County’s age-restricted communities.

• Status: Endorsed Jan. 23 by the House Transportation Committee and awaiting action by the Rules Committee.

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