Golf cart driver is warned off the road

September 02, 1994|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Sun Staff Writer

Sometimes a woman's gotta do what a woman's gotta do. In Kathy Harkum's case, that means driving her three children a half-mile to school in a golf cart -- even though she's legally blind.

But on the first day of school Monday, the 31-year-old Pasadena woman, who is ineligible for a state driver's license, encountered the county police outside Riviera Beach Elementary School and was warned that if she drove the cart again it would be towed.

"Now I'm stuck," Ms. Harkum complained yesterday. "It took me 30 years to find a way to transport myself, and I finally did it. Now, my neighbor's back to taking the kids to school, and I'm going to have to ask my family to take me grocery shopping."

But police aren't trying to "burden her in any way," said Officer Randy Bell, a department spokesman. That's why she received a warning instead of a citation that could have cost her $260, he added. It's a matter of safety.

"With no safety devices on the cart and her diminished eyesight, it's not safe for her to be driving on the road with her children," he explained.

Ms. Harkum can see "shapes, figures and colors, but objects in the distance are fuzzy," said her sister, Beverly Locantore.

Ms. Harkum has driven the motorized cart since January to take her children to school and to the nearby bank and grocery store. She said police told her they had received complaints that she drove the cart recklessly.

"But I was not," she argued. "It was a privilege to get that car, and I'm not going to do anything to get it taken away. I drive on the side of the road -- as far on the shoulder as I can so I'm not impeding traffic."

Ms. Harkum said she bought the used cart earlier this year for $2,000 after her father, Joe Harkum, said he was assured by a state police officer that if he added proper brake lights, headlights and a "slow moving vehicle" sign to the cart, she could drive it on county roads.

Mr. Harkum says he cannot remember the name of the state trooper.

Jim Lang, public information officer for the state Motor Vehicle Administration, said state law requires that a vehicle be equipped with seat belts, a horn, door handles, mirrors, an exhaust system, lights, windshield wipers, emissions equipment and a fuel system before it can be registered in Maryland and operated on public roads.

"A golf cart has some of those, but not all of those," Mr. Lang said.

It doesn't conform to federal or state safety regulations, Officer Bell added.

Responding to Ms. Harkum's plight, Anne Arundel County Councilman Carl G. "Dutch" Holland said he had asked the county's law department to research whether it can grant her a motor vehicle exception to use the golf cart.

Pat Maurer, coordinator of community relations for the National Federation of the Blind, was sympathetic, but unsure whether Ms. Harkum should be driving the golf cart.

The federation, which has its headquarters in Baltimore, wants blind people to be independent and "doing things that we can do," Ms. Maurer said.

"But when people's safety is involved, that's a different question," she said.

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