A Question of Safety

September 07, 1994

Kathy Harkum deserves credit. Legally blind, the Pasadena woman wants to be self-sufficient. Ineligible for a driver's license and not wanting to ask others to ferry her around, she has been driving a golf cart along the side of the road, mainly to take her kids to school and to go to the bank and the grocery store.

Last week, however, Anne Arundel County police ordered her to stop, warning that if they found her driving the cart again, it would be towed. Now Councilman Carl G. "Dutch" Holland is investigating whether it's possible to get Mrs. Harkum a special motor vehicle exception to use the cart.

Like Mr. Holland, we are moved by Mrs. Harkum's plight. But the police are right -- she shouldn't be driving the golf cart. It's not safe, not for her, her children or other motorists.

Even if her eyesight were perfect, operating a golf cart, lawn tractor or go-cart near the road is not only hazardous but illegal. State law requires such motorized vehicles to be equipped with seat belts, an emissions system, mirrors, lights, windshield wipers and other features before they can be licensed. Mrs. Harkum's cart is not licensed and, under these criteria, could not be.

Her poor vision, of course, makes the situation more precarious. The physically handicapped can do many things for themselves, but unfortunately certain activities must be off-limits to some people. For the legally blind, driving falls into this category. Joyce Hall, a mobility instructor with Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, says her organization believes in helping blind persons make their lives as convenient and normal as possible. "But being legally blind and driving a golf cart is not something we recommend," says Ms. Hall. "We don't even recommend that children who are legally blind ride bicycles in their neighborhoods."

Sadly, transportation services for the blind are not that plentiful, especially in the counties. But they exist. People such as Mrs. Harkum can learn which services are available by calling the National Federation of the Blind in Baltimore at 659-9314. We are told the folks at NFB will do everything they can to help the blind get where they need to go. No, using a transportation service won't be as convenient as getting in one's own vehicle. But in cases such as this, safety must come first.

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