Policy Analysis | January 2015

State and Local Regulations on the Use of Golf Carts on Public Roads

Sujit CanagaRetna

While not commonly considered a category governed as transportation, several states in the Southern region have passed laws governing the use of golf carts as transportation on public roads. These regulations vary widely in terms of how, where and when golf carts may be used legally. In some places, such as Peachtree City, Georgia, and The Villages in Florida, local governments have invested in transportation infrastructure designed for the use of golf carts, creating a network of trails complete with bridges, tunnels and signage. In other places, it is illegal to drive a golf cart on a street or sidewalk any farther than a half mile from a golf course or approved event.

Information relating to the legal street and trail use of golf carts, as well as low speed vehicles (LSV) or personal transportation vehicles (PTV), in six states in the region is presented in the accompanying table. These vehicles all have different designations, and are regulated separately by both federal and state governments; however, these regulations serve very similar purposes and, in many jurisdictions, a modified golf cart may meet the legal definition of low speed or personal transportation vehicle. The table shows the relevant state codes for legal use of these vehicles, including who may drive them, where they may be driven, whether they may be driven at night, and any required safety features. In addition, because many states allow municipal or county governments to regulate use of golf carts, the table includes example local ordinances for each state where applicable.

In addition to state and local laws on safety equipment, some golf carts must meet federal safety standards. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulates golf carts with top speeds between 20 and 25 miles per hour as LSVs (49 CFR Part 571). Golf carts with top speeds of less than 20 mph are not required to meet federal safety standards. Dealers that modify or customize golf carts to exceed top speeds between 20 and 25 mph, however, must comply with the LSV safety standards. These standards require headlights, front and rear turn signals, taillights, stop lamps, reflex reflectors, rearview mirrors, parking brake, windshield, vehicle identification number and seat belts.