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Are Golf Carts Safe on Streets?

Written by Jared Staver

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Jared Staver is a Personal Injury Lawyer based in Chicago, Illinois and has been practicing law for over 20 years.

Jared Staver

CATEGORY: Auto Accidents, Personal Injury


Long gone are the days when you only used your golf cart on the local 18-hole course. Due to their accessibility and efficiency, golf carts quickly expanded beyond the greens and into local retirement communities. In areas that focused on reducing heavy traffic or banned vehicles altogether, golf carts were the perfect middle ground. Now, some states and cities are allowing golf carts on local streets, not just within quiet gated communities. As more of these lightweight and slower vehicles hit the roads, you may welcome but question this change. Are golf cars truly safe on streets?

If you were injured in a collision involving a golf cart on your local road, do not hesitate to contact Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. at (312) 236-2900.

Current Illinois Law

Under Illinois statute 625 ILCS 5/11-1426.1, golf carts are considered non-highway vehicles and their use is restricted. Generally, it is unlawful for you to operate a non-highway vehicle on any street, roadway or highway in the state. However, there is a major exception to this law. Illinois allows municipalities to decide for themselves when golf carts can be used. If a municipality specifically allows it, golf carts can be driven on roadways that are deemed safe and have speed limits of 35 miles per hour or less.

Additionally, if you operate a golf cart, you must follow all of the same rules as people driving cars. You should have a valid driver’s license, obey the rules of the road, and not drink and drive. The vehicles themselves need to meet a certain standard. The law requires that a golf cart or other non-highway vehicle have:

  • Brakes and brake lights,
  • A steering apparatus,
  • Turn signals,
  • A rearview mirror,
  • Red reflectorized warning devices in the front and rear,
  • A “slow moving vehicle” sign on the rear,
  • A headlight that emits a white light visible from a distance of 500 ft, and
  • A tail lamp that emits a red light visible from at least 100 ft.

More Illinois Cities Allowing Golf Carts

You may not be able to imagine someone driving a golf cart down Lake Shore Drive, but operating golf carts on local roads makes a lot more sense in less populated areas in the state. According to the Southern Illinoisan, as of mid-2015, dozens of municipalities allowed golf carts on the streets and the number was only growing. Even if small towns have not allowed them yet, the topic of allowing golf carts has probably come up before the local council in recent years.

It is not only Illinois towns implementing this change. States and municipalities across the U.S. have adopted various laws enabling golf carts in some areas and with various speed limitations. The International Light Transportation Vehicle Association reported 35 Illinois municipalities had adopted golf cart ordinances while 7 percent of municipalities nationwide had done so as well.

The Potential Problems Associated with Golf Carts on Streets

There are many benefits to allowing golf cars on local streets. You can save money on gas and reduce your environmental impact. Golf carts may even force everyone to slow down and obey the 35 mph speed limits. However, there are potential setbacks as well.

While a golf cart may feel like a vehicle, it in no way offers similar protections during an accident. Jane Lynott, a senior policy advisor for AARP and transportation specialist pointed out that individuals in a golf cart are at risk similar to bicyclists, Pew Trusts reported. In a golf cart, you are far less protected in the event of a collision than drivers and passengers in highway-suitable vehicles. Few golf carts offer full coverage, which means you are not behind doors or windshields. You are vulnerable to the elements. Many golf carts do not come with seatbelts or local laws do not require seatbelts to be worn during operation. Also, golf carts cannot offer the same safety features as larger vehicles including standard airbags.

Jessica Cicchino, vice president for research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, stated golf carts are not crashworthy, according to Pew Trusts. A vehicle or SUV can weigh four times more than a golf cart, and the smaller vehicle simply cannot compete with that. You are more likely to suffer significant or fatal injuries during a crash in a golf cart than if you were part of the same collision while in a vehicle. Cicchino is particularly worried about elderly individuals who may be driving or a passenger in the golf cart. Older individuals are already more susceptible to injuries during a crash but have fewer protections in the golf cart.

A Personal Injury Attorney is Here to Help

You may be a careful driver when you are in your golf cart; however, you cannot control over driver’s actions on the road. If you were in a collision with another vehicle and suffered physical or emotional injuries, you should speak with the experienced attorneys at Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. to learn about your right to recover. We can help you collect medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering caused by the crash.

Call Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. today at (312) 236-2900 to schedule a consultation.

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(312) 236-2900
(312) 236-2900
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