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Laws on golf cart usage on roadways clarified

The Sheriff Speaks column

Kevin Sproul

Kevin Sproul

I have had several citizens ask me about the laws regarding golf carts, especially the newer laws that have taken effect in the past few years. I must admit that these laws are confusing. The confusion centers on the fact that a golf cart may be classified as either a “personal transportation vehicle” or a “motorized cart.” Although the definitions are similar, the regulations are different.

A “personal transportation vehicle” (PTV) is defined as having a minimum of four wheels, an unladen weight 1,375 pounds or less, a top speed of 20 mph, and can carry no more than eight people. PTV’s are included in the definition of “motor vehicles” and therefore subject to registration and insurance requirements under Georgia law. Also, PTV’s may only be operated by individuals who possess a valid driver’s license. Because they are considered to be motor vehicles, no local ordinances need be passed to allow their use on public roadways; however, their low speed would prohibit their use on any state of federal highway.

Personal transportation vehicles also have certain equipment requirements. Specifically, they must have:

— A braking system sufficient for the weight and passenger capacity of the vehicle, including front brakes and a parking brake;

— Seat belts;

— A reverse warning device functional at all times when the directional control is in the reverse position;

— A main power switch. When the switch is in the “off” position, or the key or other device that activates the switch is removed, the motive power circuit shall be inoperative. If the switch uses a key, it shall be removable only in the “off” position;

— Head lamps;

— Reflex reflectors;

— Tail lamps;

— A horn;

— A rearview mirror;

— Safety warning labels; and

— Hip restraints and hand holds.

A “motorized cart” (MC) is defined as having no less than three wheels, an unladen weight 1,300 pounds or less and a top speed of 20 mph. MC’s are exempt from state licensing, registration, and insurance requirements, but may not be operated on public roadways without specific local ordinances in place to allow it. Local registration is allowed with a maximum fee of $15. The City of Albany and Dougherty County have no such ordinances in place.

So, is a golf cart a “motorized cart” or a “personal transportation vehicle”?

If you want to operate a golf cart on a public roadway in Albany or Dougherty County, you would have to claim it as a PTV, since we don’t have any ordinance allowing motorized carts on our roads. As a PTV, it must meet all equipment requirements, be registered and insured, and the operator must be licensed.

It is important to note that a golf cart without proper documentation and equipment, operating on a public roadway, would be considered an off-road vehicle. As such, the operator may be cited. Additionally, the operator may be cited if he/she does not possess a valid driver’s license. If the operator is a minor, the owner of the golf cart may be cited for allowing a minor to operate a motor vehicle. There could also be charges for failure to register and maintain valid insurance on the vehicle.

These violations may seem trivial, but enforcement of these laws may help to stem the thousands upon thousands of injuries reported each year from golf-cart related accidents. Many of the reported injuries are traumatic, some fatal.

I hope this clears up some of the confusion. If you have any questions or concerns about golf carts or any other Georgia laws or requirements, please feel free to call my office at (229) 430-6508.

Sheriff Kevin Sproul is a longtime resident of Dougherty County. He is a graduate of Albany High School, Darton College and LaGrange College of Albany. Sproul has been employed with the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office since 1982 and can be reached at (229) 430-6508.