Golf carts are moving off the golf course and onto residential streets so people can get to parks, festivals, work and even the local Dairy Queen.
So much so, that several municipalities in the Region are looking at ordinances to regulate them.
Operating a golf cart on any roadway, including county and state highways, is unlawful unless it is in the jurisdiction of a city or town that has adopted an ordinance permitting it.
Indiana law states that a golf cart driver must be at least 16 years old and have a valid driver's license. The law, passed in 2009, allows cities and towns to approve their own ordinances regulating golf carts around town.
Hobart currently is looking to draft a golf cart ordinance. That may be in part because of residents like Christina Herrera and others who live in the Lake George Plateau subdivision where Herrera estimates there are about 15 golf carts, if not more, roaming around the neighborhood in the summer.
"It's a leisurely way to get around town," Herrera said.
Herrera said they are useful for festivals and the July 4th parade when streets are closed off.
"You can fit a lot more of those in a parking spot than a car," she said. "And it's convenient when you are driving people back and forth to vehicles."
Herrera said sometimes golf cart drivers will cruise to the local Dairy Queen using back roads. She said if she were to drive her family in her car to somewhere like that, she still would be taking up a parking spot.
"It's a different means of travel," she said. "It's a fun means of recreation. It has a fun family feel, and I love it."
Other towns embrace carts beyond the links
In July, the Crown Point City Council approved golf carts in the Pentwater subdivision, which is similar to a golf course development except it doesn't have a golf course. Previously, the city had allowed carts in and around golf course communities.
Carts also are permitted for driving in the Youche, White Hawk and Summertree subdivisions. A police department spokesman said residents would have to register the carts annually and have proof of insurance. Councilman Chris Retson said he favors them.
"I've seen golf cart communities, and I think it is a neat thing and there is no reason it shouldn't be allowed," he said.
Also in July, the Schererville Town Council voted unanimously to allow golf carts be driven in residential areas where the speed limit is 25 mph, provided the driver is a licensed driver, the cart has a slow-moving vehicle sticker on it and the cart has lights and turn signals. The council approved it on second reading at its Aug. 9 meeting.
Griffith firefighter Eric Andre would like to see his town come up with an ordinance, but in the meantime he's enjoying his golf cart while adhering to state regulations.
"Griffith has a lot of things going on and festivals, and it's easier to commute back and forth" using a golf cart, he said.
Sarah Snowdin, of Chesterton, is on her second golf cart after upgrading four years ago.
"It's basically for just tooling around," she said. "I don't have a convertible — but I have a golf cart."
Carts becoming new status vehicles?
Hobart resident Herrera supports the city's putting together an ordinance that would be better for people like her who use them responsibly.
Brad Zupan, of Lakes of the Four Seasons, has been building and selling golf carts for 13 years. He does a lot of customization, including two Chicago Blackhawks-themed carts this year.
Zupan said the average price of a golf cart is $2,000 to $2,500. He's souped up fully customized ones for about $7,800. Some dealers may even charge up to $12,000.
"It turns into a battle of neighbors," Zupan said. "They want to top each other when it comes to golf carts."
Brian Hrabovsky moved to Lakes of the Four Seasons four years ago and purchased a cart, "because everyone else pretty much had one."
He purchased his from out of state; it's red with a Blackhawks emblem on it.
"I just ride around with the family," he said. "It's something to do in the summer. When you are riding around and the garages are open, you see pretty much everyone has one.
"They're all over in here."
Hobart looking at all angles
Hobart ordinance committee members recently discussed a possible ordinance that could restrict golf carts to streets with speed limits of 30 mph or less. It also could require those driving them to be at least 18 years old. Another suggested rule would call for headlights and brake lights on golf carts driven at night.
Councilman Josh Huddlestun said many in the community are using golf carts to travel to the city's downtown and other locations, which prompted the need to consider developing the ordinance.
Hobart already has regulations prohibiting golf carts from being used on sidewalks or on bike and walking paths. Officials said they continue to see that happen, and it was suggested the ordinance include references indicating carts can't be driven in those areas.
City attorney Anthony DeBonis is expected to start drafting the golf cart ordinance, which could be reviewed by the council in coming weeks.