BUGGY ROAD RAGE
By BELINDA SCOTT
DOUG Winn might be retired, 72 years old and have a crook hip, but the reaction from the Roads and Traffic Authority to his electric golf buggy makes him feel like a frisky teenager confronting Methuselah.
He says the RTA is refusing to confront a whole new generation of vehicles, putting the issues surrounding low-speed people movers into the 'too-hard' basket and closing the lid.
The RTA will not approve provisional registration for his state-of-the-art electric golf buggy so he can drive it the 1.5km from his home at North Bellingen to the Bellingen Golf Club, transporting himself and his wife, who has two artificial hips.
In March, 2004, the RTA hotline advised the Winns that a golf buggy could be conditionally registered if it had turn indicators, reflectors, rear vision mirror, a horn and a flashing yellow light.
After buying the buggy, collecting the doctors' certificates and ensuing the buggy had all the features required, the Winns thought they could leave their two-tonne petrol-guzzling classic Jaguar at home and drive their all-electric, non-polluting, silent buggy to enjoy their golf game.
In addition to the required features, the electric community transport buggy also has seat belts and high and low beam lights.
But in September, 2005, the manager of the Coffs Harbour motor registry phoned the Winns to say the police highway patrol thought the buggy was unsafe because the proposed route involved 50 metres of travel on the main street of Bellingen. Bellingen's town centre is a 40km/h zone, the little electric buggy's top speed.
"Fork lifts, tractors, mowers, cranes and a horse-drawn vehicle all use the roads that the RTA says is 'unsafe' for an electric car," Mr Winn said.
"Council mowers are registered as plant with other council vehicles and other conditionally registered vehicles such as farm tractors do not require a police report on their 'safety' in order to be (conditionally) registered.
"I have spoken to every golf club on this part of the coast and they all know of people who drive short distances illegally because the RTA makes it impossible to get the Conditional Registration which is provided for in their own regulations."
A spokesman for the RTA said yesterday he would investigate the matter.
He said registration was usually refused because the vehicle did not comply with Australian Design Standards.
The RTA's website says that 'conditional registration is available for vehicles that do not comply with Australian design rules. They include purposebuilt vehicles such as golf buggies'.
Mr Winn said the RTA had never provided him in writing with any reply to his application, any grounds for objection or any copies of its correspondence with police, so he believes they are using 'safety' as an excuse to refuse applications.
The RTA's Commitment to Service brochure says that all customer correspondence will be acknowledged within seven days and the RTA tries to resolve issues within 28 days.
Mr Winn has been waiting for almost five months. He put in his application in August 29, 2005.