Carts on the beat

A Missouri police chief, Rickey Jones, recently surprised a drug dealer in the middle of a deal. The really surprising part was how Jones arrived at the scene: rather than screeching to a halt in a squad car, he approached, almost silently, in an electric golf cart.

When the suspect sped away in a car, Jones could not give chase: the cart struggled to go faster than 30kph. Instead, he radioed a colleague in a more traditional police vehicle who intercepted the fleeing car some distance away.

Before long the canvas-covered, open-sided carts may be less of a surprise on the streets. Under pressure from rising fuel prices, towns across the United States are passing bylaws to permit the use of golf carts on their streets as an alternative to cars.

“You can definitely save on fuel — my cart’s electric, but even the ones that run on fuel hardly use any of it,” said Paul Heideman, mayor of Ashkum, a town in rural Illinois.

Numerous other towns in Illinois, Indiana and North Carolina have implemented similar regulations or are considering them.

And in several places where the carts are an increasingly common sight, another benefit is becoming clear: with no windows or doors to separate drivers from one another, or from pedestrians, the texture of daily life is changing.

“It leads to a friendlier atmosphere,” Heideman said.

A few hours away in the small town of Cerro Gordo, golf carts will become lawful street vehicles thanks in part to the campaigning efforts of Shamarie Allen and her husband, who run a golf-cart customisation business.

But golf carts have a serious image problem: many associate them with old age and pensioners. With the help of Allen’s company, LG Custom Carts, however, carts can be kitted out with chrome wheels, leather seats and high-end gadgetry.

Despite the potential for savings on fuel, the carts may not be an ideal solution for those worst hit by the economic downturn: a basic vehicle costs about $2 000 (about R17 700). And the danger of injury or death, especially in the event of a collision with a car or truck, is high.

Despite its limitations, though, Jones said they had transformed the job of policing Pine Lawn.

“Now people can talk to them [officers] more easily,” he said. —

We make it make sense

If this story helped you navigate your world, subscribe to the M&G today for just R30 for the first three months

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.”

Oliver Burkeman
Guest Author

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

Joshua Cohen’s ‘The Netanyahus’ wins the Pulitzer Prize for fiction

The Pulitzer Prize awards grants another controversial award to a book that mixes both fiction and non-fiction

Court hears text message irrelevant to Mkhwebane’s legal fortunes

Advocate Andrew Breitenbach, appearing for parliament, said the message he received did not advantage his client and was no cause to suspend the impeachment inquiry against the public protector

Tazné van Wyk murder trial: accused twin sister brought in...

Murder accused’s twin sister tells court of interacting with the accused two days after the deceased went missing

Those who attack funerals self-identify as pariahs

What happens in Israel and Palestine does not affect Israelis and Palestinians, alone. It fuels a global fault-line of mistrust, suspicion, intolerance and violence

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…