In recent years, golf carts have become more popular in travelling up and down our city and village streets. In Ohio, golf carts are categorized as under-speed vehicles along with mini trucks and utility vehicles such as four-wheelers and John Deere gator vehicles. Operation of under-speed vehicles on Ohio streets and roads is subject to unique rules.
Under-speed vehicles used for agricultural purposes are permitted to use public streets and roads if properly marked with traditional, triangular slow-moving vehicle emblems.
Under-speed vehicles such as golf carts that are not used for agricultural purposes can use public roads in certain circumstances, depending upon the location of operation, the golf cart’s condition and the golf cart’s registration/licensing.
First, golf carts can never be used on roadways with a speed limit of more than 35 mph.
Second, golf carts can only be driven on streets with the speed limit of 35 mph or slower if the local government has approved golf cart travel on those streets and roads. Therefore, if a village has not passed laws that specifically allow golf carts to use public streets, golf carts cannot be operated on that small town’s streets. Similarly, county commissioners or the Ohio state government is required to pass legislation to permit golf carts on any roads outside municipalities such as towns and cities.
Third, even if a municipality has passed an ordinance or resolution allowing golf cart use on roadways with speed limits of 35 mph or slower, a golf cart to be operated on those streets must meet several requirements.
The golf cart must be inspected by local law enforcement, usually the local sheriff’s office or the Ohio Highway Patrol. The inspection will evaluate the existence of and sufficiency of the golf cart’s safety features, including but not limited to headlights, brakes, tail lights, windshield, turn signals and a horn.
If a golf cart passes inspection, the owner must then go to any local office of the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles and submit an application to get a certificate of title for the golf cart as well as proof of ownership of the golf cart (for example, a bill of sale, affidavit of ownership or manufacture certificate of origin). The owner must also provide proof that sales tax was paid when the golf cart was purchased as well as the required fee to get a certificate of title. The certificate of title then allows the BMV to issue a traditional license plate (commonly called the vehicle’s “tags”) for the golf cart.
Therefore, despite very common misperceptions, just because a golf cart has a license plate does not make it lawful for that golf cart to be driven everywhere regular vehicles like cars can be driven.
In summary, an inspected golf cart with proper titling and licensing may only be used on certain low-speed roadways in local communities that have actually passed one or more laws that allow for golf cart operation on those roadways.
Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at Lee@LeeSchroeder.com or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.