GALVESTON, Texas - A deadly accident that killed four people has prompted Galveston City Council to modify the island's golf cart regulations. One proposal includes banning golf cart rental companies altogether.
Last Saturday, four people, including two children, were riding a rental golf cart when they were killed by a suspected drunk driver.
BACKGROUND/DETAILS: Suspected drunk driver charged after 2 adults, 2 children killed
Around 11:30 PM, Galveston Police said that 45-year-old Miguel Espinoza was drunk when he was driving a black Hyundai SUV late and blew through a stop sign near 33rd and Avenue R. Investigators say Espinoza then slammed into a Dodge pickup truck and struck the golf cart, killing four people and sending two others on board to the hospital in critical condition.
Espinoza was arrested and charged with four counts of intoxicated manslaughter. His bond has been set at $400,000.
Authorities have identified the victims as 49-year-old Felipe Bentancur, 25-year-old Destiny Uvalle, 14-year-old Brailyn Cantu and 4-year-old Kaisyn Bentancur. All victims were visiting from Rosenberg.
"The city of Galveston sends our thoughts and prayers to all the families that were involved in this accident," said Mayor Craig Brown.
At Galveston's city council meeting Thursday, there was hardly any discussion of drunk driving, instead, council members focused on adding new restrictions for the 1743 permitted golf carts on the island.
Proposals include prohibiting children under 12 from riding in golf carts, banning nighttime driving and shutting down golf cart rental companies entirely.
However, that suggestion was met with mixed reviews.
"I am a pro-businessperson, I support small business, large business, but I would not be opposed to taking an approach to banning rental golf carts," said Councilmember Marie Robb, who represents District Six. "And I have friends who have companies. I feel bad. I know it would be a financial hurt to them."
"Golf carts maybe not a problem, but the alcohol, maybe a bit more patrolling for the alcohol instead. We’re seeing more alcohol than golf carts, that’s for sure," said Bill Hammer, a tourist.
"It’s fun. It’s a tourist thing. It’s just a different way to get around. It’s fun," said Renee Croasdale, a Galveston resident.
"I think that’s an overkill. I think for us to have all of a sudden, a knee-jerk reaction and shut down an entire industry just because we have rightly so, a horrific accident, that was caused by an allegedly drunken driver. To close a whole industry down for that, I think is an overreaction on this. And I think there are rules and regulations that we can enforce here that will bring the safety even more under control for those in golf carts, without closing down the entire business," Brown said.
Galveston Police said there were a total of 9,298 motor vehicle crashes from 2018 to 2022; 604 of which were alcohol/drug related.
GPD also reported 32 golf cart accidents from June 2021 to August 2022. At least 12 of those crashes resulted in injuries, two of which were deadly.