Legislature Makes Changes to Golf Cart Laws

September 7, 2011

Are motorized carts and personal transportation vehicles the same thing?
The term “motorized cart” is defined by Georgia law and is quite similar to the newly created term of “personal transportation vehicle.” Under Georgia law, “motorized cart” means every motor vehicle having no less than three wheels and an unladen weight of 1,300 pounds or less and which cannot operate at more than 20 miles per hour. Similarly, under Georgia law, “personal transportation vehicle” basically means any motor vehicle with a minimum of four wheels, capable of a maximum level ground speed of less than 20 miles per hour with a maximum gross vehicle unladen or empty weight of 1,375 pounds and capable of transporting not more than eight persons. Both types of vehicles have a top speed of 20 miles per hour, one must have at least three wheels while the other must have at least four wheels and there is only a 75 pound gap between the unladen weights of these two types of vehicles.

Because of the similarities between the two definitions and the much more substantive authorizing language given to “motorized carts” in Georgia law GMA’s model ordinance has been drafted utilizing both definitions, but with “motorized carts” providing the substantive permissive sections of the model ordinance. In Georgia law, vehicles with classifications similar to “personal transportation vehicles” have all required enabling language in state law for such vehicles to be driven on the roads of this state. There is no such language in Georgia law allowing for “personal transportation vehicles” to be driven on the public roads. There is such language for “motorized carts.” It is apparent that state requirements for “motorized carts” are more lenient than they would be for “personal transportation vehicles.” The below chart highlights some of those key differences.
 
The differences between the two types of vehicles, while not large in their definitions, is quite large when it comes to what Georgia law allows and does not allow for one type of vehicle as opposed to the other. In order to give our cities more freedom in who will be allowed to operate these vehicles in their jurisdiction the model ordinance provides many more examples for “motorized carts” than for “personal transportation vehicles.”
 

State Requirement

Personal Transportation Vehicle

Motorized Cart

Driver’s License

Required – In Coker v. State, 261 Ga. App. 646 (2003), a “motorized cart” was found to be a motor vehicle and thus the driver was required to have a driver’s license to operate such vehicle on the roads of the state.

Not required – As a result of the Coker decision, the General Assembly in 2004 added language to O.C.G.A. § 40-6-331 which specifically allows local governing authorities to determine who may operate “motorized carts” in their jurisdictions without driver’s licenses. The exemption only applies to “motorized carts”.

Registration

Required – Under O.C.G.A. § 40-2-20(a)(1) every owner of a motor vehicle must register such motor vehicle each and every year. The definition of personal transportation vehicle in SB 240 classifies such as “motor vehicles”.

Not required - O.C.G.A. § 40-2-20(b)(5) specifically exempts “motorized carts” from being subject to the registration requirements of the state.

Insurance

Required – Under O.C.G.A. § 33-34-4 motor vehicles required to be registered in the state are required to have insurance and the operator or owner is required to maintain such insurance as per O.C.G.A. § 40-6-10.

Not required (most likely) - O.C.G.A. § 33-34-4 only requires insurance for motor vehicles which are registered in the state. As there is no requirement that “motorized carts” be registered in the State of Georgia, there may be no explicit requirement that such vehicles fall under the state’s insurance requirements.


Why are there definitions for personal transportation vehicle and motorized carts when they are almost identical?
Georgia’s golf cart manufacturers wanted to make a distinction between the new vehicles they are creating currently and the vehicles which may already be in use from previous years. Additionally, the golf cart manufacturers wanted to ensure that people who owned older vehicles which fall under the definition of motorized carts would still be able to utilize such vehicles in cities which allowed for use on paths and roads.

Can cities provide for equipment requirements on motorized carts even though they are exempt from certain state equipment requirements?
Georgia law, in O.C.G.A. § 40-6-331(b), allows cities to pass ordinances establishing operating standards for motorized carts as long as there is no provision that the motorized carts meet the requirements of general law as to registration, inspection, or licensing.

Where do personal transportation vehicles have to be registered?
Personal transportation vehicles have to be registered under the state’s motor vehicle registration laws.

What vehicles are allowed on roads?
Low speed vehicles are allowed on roads as long as they abide by state laws on their use on the roadways. Motorized carts are allowed on the roads as long as a city has passed an ordinance designating areas of use. Personal transportation vehicles are silent as to their use on roadways. However, because other similarly defined vehicles required state statutes to designate how such vehicles could be operated on the roads of the state and personal transportation vehicles lack such state statutes they seemingly are not allowed on the roads of this state.

Do we have to pass an ordinance to prevent golf carts from being driven on our roads?
No. The only change in the law related to golf carts this year has been to add a new definition. There have been no substantive changes to the law. If a city wishes to allow motorized carts on the city streets there is a model ordinance available on the GMA website which a city may use as a basis for drafting its own model motorized cart ordinance.

What did the new law do?
The new law created a new definition that covers more equipment regulations for golf carts.