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For years, cruising with the top down was reserved for those who could afford premium convertible cars. While they won’t scratch your need for speed, golf carts have become increasingly popular for those who want to travel around their neighborhood at comfortable speeds. Golf carts are popular alternatives because they’re energy-efficient, cheaper to buy and maintain than regular cars and fun to drive. If you own, or are considering buying a golf cart, it’s important to know the legal issues and restrictions when operating a golf cart.

What’s the difference between “Golf Carts” and “Golf Cars?”

While colloquially golf carts and cars are called “golf carts,” there is a difference. If you’ve played golf, you’ve probably ridden in a golf cart. They are basic and are usually only driven on the course or on one’s own property. Alternatively, golf cars, or Low Speed Vehicles (LSV), have modified speeds which allow them to reach speeds of 25 miles per hour, however federal law restricts LSVs from going faster.  Additionally, LSVs must be equipped with seat belts, windshields, mirrors and turn signals to meet certain federal safety standards. Consequently, LSVs are drivable on some neighborhood streets, depending on state and local law.

General Legal Issues

States and local governments alike have enacted laws regulating LSVs on public roads. Most states have restrictions such as restricting night driving, limiting LSVs to roads with slower speed limits or requiring drivers to have a license.

In Arizona, LSVs must carry liability insurance and be registered. Arizona sets a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour to conform with federal law and bans LSVs from roads with a speed limit of 35 miles per hour or higher. They also cannot be driven on sidewalks. LSVs should not be on a roadway if the driver is without a valid driver license and proper endorsement.

Please check with your local municipality or HOA to research further restrictions that may be applicable.

HOAs and Golf Carts

As discussed in previous blogs, HOAs and private communities typically enjoy significant latitude when determining the restrictions in their communities. If your community owns or is responsible for a private road, your community may impose further restrictions while governing their streets. These restrictions can come in the form of restrictive covenants that regulate or govern golf cart operations. While it’s not the HOAs job to enforce public laws, there are typically restrictive covenants that make it a violation to engage in unlawful activity.

Problems with Golf Carts

With an increase in popularity, golf carts have posed new problems for others sharing space on the streets. Low speed golf carts can create similar traffic problems that bicyclists create. Most LSV cannot keep up with the flow of traffic on roads that exceed 25 miles per hour which impedes the flow of traffic. To combat this problem, the city of Surprise has created a dedicated golf cart lane. Opinions, however, have been mixed. The golf cart lane now sits between the bike lane and car lane. On one hand, residents are concerned that this new lane will cause congestion or that car drivers will use the golf cart lane as a passing lane. On the other hand, there are five elementary schools in the area, leading proponents to argue that this lane is safer and more pedestrian friendly.

Find an Experienced HOA Attorney in Arizona

The attorneys at MacQueen & Gottlieb have significant experience with HOA issues, including disputes about LSVs.  Our firm can help you investigate and pursue remedies for any actions that were not taken in the best interest of the community or that unfairly harmed individual community members.  Contact us today at 602-726-2229 to schedule an initial consultation or make an appointment online.

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