It can take some courage to exit the parking lot of McIntosh High School in Peachtree City just after the bell rings. Even after three years on her golf cart, senior Amelia Traylor isn’t always up for it.
“I hang out with my friends in the drama room for the traffic to clear because it’s terrifying.”
What’s terrifying? Picture several hundred golf carts, with teenagers in the driver’s seats, all headed in the direction of a single exit.
“It’s kind of just a major flurry of activity. Everyone is scrambling to get out as fast as they can. It’s constantly start and stop, start and stop,” Traylor says. “It’s really insane.”
Only in Peachtree City. The planned community’s winding trail network makes it possible to get just about anywhere by golf cart. And since the city allows teenagers to drive golf carts unaccompanied at age 15, the motorized vehicles have become a primary mode of transit for high schoolers. In fact, at McIntosh High, there are now more parking spaces for golf carts than cars.
Meet Teens Who Drive Golf Carts To School
Sophomore Jack Bruschetti has been taking his canvas-colored golf cart to McIntosh High since February. It’s an EZ-GO brand, which he likes because of the speed.
“My golf cart goes 25 mph,” he says. “For not street-legal golf carts, that’s fast.”
Bruschetti showed how to drive it.
“I mean, it’s just like a car. You put the key in, and you know it’s going in reverse when the really annoying buzzer comes on.”
When he is asked if golf cart passengers should wear seatbelts, he says, “Nah, I mean if the driver’s good.” Though, the students admit that during rush hour, not all the drivers here are good.
“One day, I was hit like twice in a row by the same golf cart,” Bruschetti says. Asked how he responded, he says, “I don’t know, I just kind of glare at them.”
The students say the golf carts are pretty sturdy, similar to bumper cars. Also, no one’s really going fast enough to cause serious harm.
McIntosh senior John Hamlin offers one way of thinking about it.
“If you get into an accident with a car, it’s a lot more insurance, danger and stuff like that. Whereas if you get into a golf-cart accident, it’s not nearly as dangerous and there’s less damage.” Hamlin says. “This is kind of like an in-between where you can learn to drive a little bit and work your way up to your license.”
As for Hamlin, he actually is old enough to drive a car now, but with the family’s burnt orange golf cart at his disposal, he’s not really in a hurry.
“It’s just an easy way to get around without having to take the bus and be able to be independent that way,” he says.
Sophomore Cassie Barnett, sitting with a group of girls hanging out on their golf carts, is on a bright green golf cart that she says is brand new.
“I got it as a birthday present, which is pretty awesome. It’s like a $5,000 golf cart,” Barnett says.
Apparently, her parents said she could take it to school as long as she didn’t mess it up. She is asked if she feels proud behind the wheel of a new golf cart.
“Um, yes. I don’t know if it’s bad to say that,” Barnett says. “But like, I’ll be walking to my golf cart, I’ll ask my friends, "Let’s play find Cassie’s golf cart." And they can easily pick it out because it’s shiny and bright green, and nobody else’s here is bright green.”
Not everyone is as enthusiastic about their golf cart’s appearance. Traylor, the senior who was terrified of the after-school traffic, admits she’s put her family’s blue golf cart to pretty good use over the last three years.
“It loses screws all the time. The mirror falls off,” Traylor says. “The little thing that controls whether it goes in forward or reverse, the cord broke.”
It’s more about what the golf cart gives her: Independence and also the experience of being in the driver’s seat.
“Driving the cart with the cover down, you get this blast of wind in your face, like blowing your hair back, and you have music and when you’re going up and down the hills, it kind of feels like a roller coaster,” she says. “It’s like one of my favorite feelings.”
But, Traylor says, the experience of driving golf carts and the freedom that comes with it has its limits -- namely, the Peachtree City limits. That is about as far as the golf cart trails go.