By Rusty Bradshaw
The Sun City Home Owners Association Roads and Safety Committee will discuss ways to educate the public on roadway behavior when it reconvenes after a month’s break for Thanksgiving.
The committee will meet 10 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19 in the meeting room at the SCHOA office, 10401 W. Coggins Drive. Residents are encouraged to attend committee meetings and provide their input on traffic and safety issues. The committee regularly meets the third Wednesday each month and includes representatives from Marciopa County Department of Transportation, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, the Sun City Posse, the Sun City PRIDES and Arizona Department of Transportation when Grand Avenue issues are planned for discussion.
In meetings following the committee’s summer recess, there was a lot of discussion about rules of the road for golf cars, and some specific issues within the community. Committee members who live in Sun City were concerned about golf car drivers believing the rules of the road do not apply to them.
“We see golf cars running through stop signs and driving through crosswalks, among other things,” said committee member Pam Schwartz.
According to Arizona law, golf cars capable of speeds above 25 mph are considered motor vehicles and must be licensed like other vehicles. Drivers of licensed golf cars are required to obey the same rules of the road as other vehicles.
That means they are required to come to a full stop at stop signs before proceeding through and cannot drive in crosswalks. The only exception to the latter is when a golf car is crossing a major street from one part of a golf course to another. These crossings are found mostly on Del Webb and Boswell boulevards, and 107th and 103rd avenues.
Jim Powell, committee chairman, asked MCDOT officials about the reason for painting “crosswalk” lines at the golf car crossings on Sun City’s major roadways that straddle golf courses. He said it confuses some drivers and creates potential collision hazards.
“When some people see a golf car waiting to cross, they stop to let it go across,” he said. “Since we don’t need to stop for crossing golf cars, that could cause a driver following to run into the first vehicle.”
However, it was pointed out that some golfers use push carts instead of golf cars when using the crossings. That makes them pedestrians so the crossings serve a dual purpose, according to Traci Ruth, MCDOT division manager.
“Drivers must stop for pedestrians, and golf car drivers — whether in licensed motor or a neighborhood electric vehicles — must obey the traffic laws,” she said.
Committee members discussed a number of enhancements to improve driver knowledge at these crossings, including warning signs specified distances before the marked crossings and enhanced stop signs where the crossing starts on each side of the road and in wide medians. However, no consensus was reached on the best options.
“Changing driver habits is mostly a matter of educating people,” said Traci Ruth, MCDOT division manager.
Some golf cars are not geared to exceed 20 mph. These are considered neighborhood electric vehicles and are not allowed on roadways with speed limits more than 25 mph. While they are not registered with the state, drivers of these vehicles are expected to follow the basic traffic laws if on a public street, including obeying all stop signs and traffic signals.
For those registered golf cars, Arizona law requires minimum liability insurance and limits them to roads with speed limits of 35 mph or less. The latter restriction complies with federal standards requiring speed limits on those vehicles.
“The federal highway standards are the ones we go by,” said Nicole Moon, MCDOT spokeswoman.
If a golf car operator is caught driving without insurance, the Arizona Department of Motor Vehicles can suspend the operator’s driver’s license and require him to carry SR-22 insurance, a statement of financial responsibility, for three years, according to International Light transportation Vehicle Association officials.
Federal law says that each state, including Arizona, can make its own laws regarding golf cars only if the vehicles are incapable of exceeding speeds of 25 mph, according to information on the ILTVA website, www.iltva.org. Therefore, golf cars cannot be manufactured that are capable of exceeding this speed or modified to go faster than 25 mph. To comply with this regulation, Arizona sets a maximum speed of 25 mph for golf cars and bans them from roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or higher.
Golf cars must have working headlights, brake lights and a horn. Golf cars are exempt from the Arizona requirement that all motor vehicles must have a windshield, according to ILTVA officials.
MCDOT officials provided a selection of two-sided cards for distribution at the SCHOA office outlining the rules of the road.
“These rules of the road documents answer a lot of questions about who we operate and why,” Ms. Moon said.
The cards, available for residents to pick up at the SCHOA office, address issues including speed limits, roadway maintenance and use of the county rights-of-way. MCDOT’s cards can be supplemented by a SCHOA-produced pamphlet addressing some of the same safety issues, but others specific to Sun City.
Much of the confusion on the roadways in Sun City can stem from the fact that residents come from a variety of areas around the country where driving customs might be somewhat different. SCHOA’s safety pamphlet states safety starts with knowing and following the rules of the road, being defensive, eliminating distractions, such as cell phone use while driving, and being courteous.
While Sun City was built at a time when the community was isolated in the desert with mostly farmland surrounding it, things have changed since 1960 and Sun City is now surrounded by urban cities. Not all drivers in the community live in Sun City and are not accustomed to sharing the road with golf cars, according to SCHOA officials.
They advise drivers — especially those in golf cars — to be aware of the traffic around them and always signal their intentions when preparing to turn. Arizona law requires slower vehicles to move to the right of the roadway.
SCHOA officials also encourage golf car drivers to install seat belts on their vehicle and wear them whenever driving the vehicle. The Retirement Community Association of Sun City regularly provides free seat belts and installation. The group has another such offer scheduled 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8 in the parking lot at the Sun Bowl, 10220 N. 107th Ave.