Hillsville Police Chief Wesley Yonce wants to get the word out ahead of this year’s VFW Post 1115 Gun Show & Flea Market that golf cart and Hoveround-powered-chair users can legally use the vehicles only on certain roads.
“The only thing this year I perceive as an issue of concern is participants using golf carts and Hoverounds,” said Yonce. “It’s difficult to explain the restrictions to people so it is understandable. People want to use them on (Route) 58, but the state law doesn’t allow this where the posted speed is above 25 miles per hour.” Officially, the town has not passed an ordinance allowing golf cart use on its sidestreet.
According to the State Code (46.2-916.3) concerning golf cart and utility vehicle operation on designated public highways, a golf cart or utility vehicle may be operated where the posted speed limit is 25 miles per hour or less. The code stipulates a golf cart or utility vehicle may cross a highway at an intersection controlled by a traffic light if the highway has a posted speed limit of no more than 35 miles per hour where proper crossing signs have been posted by the Virginia Department of Transportation.
Information supplied by Yonce indicates the same stipulations apply in towns with a population of 2,000 or less with the further stipulation that the highway (with a speed limit of 35 or less) may be crossed by a golf cart or utility vehicle if the crossing is the only access from one part of town to the other.
Other rules for golf cart and utility vehicle operation on a public highway include display of a slow-moving vehicle emblem and operation of golf carts and utility vehicles being operated between sunrise and sunset. The Code allows persons to travel from one part of a golf course to an adjacent part and travel between a person’s home and golf course (for trips no longer than one-half mile in either direction) on a highway with a speed limit no more than 35 miles per hour.
Local government employees, operating on highways within their locality, may use a golf cart or utility vehicle to fulfill a governmental purpose, provided the vehicle is operated on highways with a speed limit of 35 miles per hour or less. Employees of public or private two-year or four-year institutions of higher education may operate carts or utility vehicles on highways (with 25 miles per hour or less speed limits) within the institution’s property. (Typically this is a courtesy extended to emergency medical personnel working the show.)
Another concern for festival participants is counterfeit or knockoff items offered by vendors. Yonce said vendors are routinely checked by officers working with the Virginia State Police.
“We try to control this, but with 15 officers and all of the vendors, it is, frankly, difficult to control,” Yonce said.
He praised the cooperation between the State Police, Carroll County Sheriff’s Department and area fire and rescue groups for making the annual event run smoothly, particularly over the past five years. He also credited the Health Department for its work on being sure vendors are following safety rules and have the proper permits.
Yonce described the volunteer effort as “a great bunch of people working together.” He said technology has had an impact on the gun show with demands for cell phone coverage and participants “walking while distracted.” While Internet sales are credited with reducing the number of vendors, Yonce said his department hasn’t noticed a corresponding decrease in participants.
Traffic control for the show remains touch and go as the throngs of participants meander with traffic. Traditionally, organizers keep the center lanes open for use by emergency personnel.
He added that few arrests for drunkenness have been made in connection with previous shows as crowds have proven to be orderly. Few incidents of theft from vendor booths have been reported. Yonce credits the informal peer-to-peer honor code between vendors and personal investment of participants to this low number of incidents.
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.