AVON PARK — The goal of accommodating the disabled and keeping people safe on the street may come to a head Tuesday when the Highlands County Commission meets.
On the one hand, parents of Brandon Bennett, who has a rare disease that affects his bones, want the county commission to allow golf carts on Avon Park Lakes streets so he can ride to a lake and go fishing.
He’s unable to walk long distances or drive a car, said Peggy Bennett, his mother. The Avon Park Lakes Community Association has supported having at least some streets designated for golf-cart use.
But Highlands County Engineer Ramon Gavarrete has recommended against allowing golf carts on the streets. He cited speed limits on the streets and safety concerns raised by Highlands County Sheriff Susan Benton.
State law prohibits driving golf carts on streets unless the county approves their use. In Highlands County, golf carts have been approved for use in several subdivisions.
But in the case of Avon Park Lakes, Benton wrote: “Of concern are the potential dangers relating to injuries and fatalities in allowing golf carts to operate on roadways within large residential communities like Avon Park Lakes where there will be interaction with everyday traffic. It is important to point out that golf carts and low speed vehicles are not designed for crashworthiness with other vehicles, especially cars, SUVs and trucks.”
Benton also noted that if the roads are approved for golf carts, anyone, 14 years old or older, will be able to use one on the road.
In The Villages, a retirement community in Florida, at least 14 people died in golf cart-related accidents during the last six years, she wrote.
Gavarrete noted in his recommendation that in other developments where golf carts were approved for use on streets, the roads’ speed limit was no higher than 25 miles per hour.
In Avon Park Lakes, it would not be possible to avoid streets that could have a speed limit above 25 miles per hour, he said.
Bennett hopes supporters attend the meeting to support the golf cart designation. It will help not only her stepson, but also other disabled people, she added.
She said that Brandon Bennett faces spending at least 12 hours a day at home unless he can ride a golf cart.
“They are taking away his ability to do the same things other people are able to do,” she said. “Brandon has a mobility disability and he has a right to enjoy things that other people enjoy doing.”
The meeting starts at 9 a.m. Tuesday and is held in the boardroom of the Highlands County Government Center, 600 S. Commerce Ave., Sebring.