KINGSPORT — Can you drive a golf cart on a city street? I read on social media that you could, so it must be true, right?
I wouldn’t bet my driver’s license on it.
The Kingsport Police Department recently issued a lengthly press release about operating golf carts and other small, four-wheeled vehicles within the city limits. According to Tom Patton, KPD’s public information officer, the department routinely receives questions from residents about the legalities of operating these types of vehicles on city streets.
“There has been a great deal of misinformation and misunderstanding on this subject, so some education and clarification are certainly in order,” Patton said.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF VEHICLES
Tennessee law recognizes three categories of vehicles related to this issue:
1) Traditional golf cart: a motor vehicle that is designed and manufactured for operation on a golf course for sporting or recreational purposes that is not capable of exceeding speeds of 20 miles per hour.
2) Low-speed vehicle: any four-wheeled electric vehicle (excluding traditional golf carts), whose top speed is greater than 20 miles per hour but not greater than 25 miles per hour.
3) Medium-speed vehicle: any four-wheeled electric or gasoline-powered vehicle (excluding traditional golf carts), whose top speed is greater than 30 miles per hour but not greater than 35 miles per hour.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS
According to state law, a “traditional golf cart” is not street legal and may not be titled and registered for on-road use unless it has been modified to meet all of the low- or medium-speed vehicle requirements.
These requirements say the vehicle must have headlamps, stop lamps, front and rear turn signals, tail lamps, reflex reflectors and a parking brake. The vehicle must also have:
— One exterior mirror on the driver side and one additional mirror (either on the passenger side or in the interior).
— A windshield that conforms to the federal motor vehicle safety standard on glazing materials.
— Seat belts (type 1 or 2) located at each seating position.
— A vehicle identification number (VIN).
Finally, Patton explained that the vehicle must be registered, have a license plate displayed, be insured (with proof of insurance available) and be operated by a licensed driver with a valid Class D driver’s license in their possession.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
A street legal low-speed vehicle may be operated on streets where the posted speed limit is 35 miles per hour or less. A street-legal medium-speed vehicle may be operated on streets where the posted speed limit is 40 miles per hour or less.
While low- and medium-speed vehicles may not be driven on streets that exceed the respective 35 and 40 mph limits, Patton said, they may cross such streets, but only at intersections. Drivers of all street-legal low- and medium-speed vehicles must obey all traffic laws and rules of the road.
According to city code, all three types of these vehicles may not be operated on a sidewalk. Finally, Tennessee DUI laws apply to any motor vehicle, including traditional golf carts and low- and medium-speed vehicles.
To register a low- or medium-speed vehicle, applicants should provide to their local county clerk’s office a copy of the vehicle’s MSO (manufacturer’s statement of origin), as proof that the vehicle meets all statutory requirements and safety standards, along with the traditional documentation required for vehicle registration.
Individuals modifying a traditional golf cart to meet low- or medium-speed vehicle requirements must submit a low- or medium-speed vehicle affidavit that certifies the vehicle has been sufficiently modified to meet the necessary legal requirements. The affidavit must be submitted with the registration application as a condition of registration.