Earlier this year, a 56-year old golf cart passenger was killed in St. Cloud when his friend, who was driving the golf cart, was hit by a car as the cart crossed a road. The passenger was thrown out of the cart on impact and died at a hospital the next day. The driver was not hurt.
This is just one example of the 15,000 people who require emergency department treatment every year due to an accident involving a golf cart. Nearly 40 percent of all golf cart accidents involve a person falling out or being ejected from the cart.
As more and more golf courses are being built, and more private communities are being developed, the use of golf carts is expanding, which based on simple common sense, means accidents will increase. Although Florida state statutes regulate the use of golf carts on public roads, when they are driven on private property, there are very few regulations.
How Does Florida Define a Golf Cart?
This may seem like a simple question, but Florida recognizes several different types of low speed and off-highway vehicles. Different laws apply to different types. A golf cart is defined by Florida law as “a motor vehicle that is designed and manufactured for operation on a golf course for sporting or recreational purposes and that is not capable of exceeding speeds of 20 miles per hour.”
Florida State Laws Specific to Golf Carts
Florida state laws applicable to golf carts include:
- They are not required to be titled or registered.
- Owners are not required to have insurance.
- Drivers do not have to have a driver’s license.
- If driven on a public roadway that has been designated for use by a golf cart, drivers must be a minimum of 14-years old.
There are only minimum equipment requirements for golf carts. According to the Florida statute covering golf carts, they must have:
- Efficient brakes.
- Reliable steering apparatus.
- Safe tires.
- A rearview mirror.
- Front and rear red reflectors as warning devices.
Additionally, they can only be operated between sunrise and sunset hours.
Laws Governing Golf Carts on Public Roadways
According to the comprehensive statute governing golf carts, golf carts are only allowed on public roadways if:
- The roadway has been designated by a municipality as safe for use by golf carts.
- Appropriate signs are posted to indicate that golf carts are allowed.
- When there is a road that must be crossed in order to connect two sides of a mobile home park.
- When there is a road that must be crossed in order to connect two sides of a golf course.
Proper notices and traffic control measures must be posted on all these involved roads, including the ones which golf carts only crossover.
Other Relevant Golf Cart Laws
Golf carts are allowed on certain roadways if authorized by the Division of Recreation and Parks of the Department of Environmental Protection and the posted speed limit is no higher than 35 mph.
Local Florida Ordinances
State law governing golf carts allows municipalities to enact their own rules regulating the use of golf carts, and those rules may be more stringent than those established by the statute. The governmental entity must post signs or, according to the statute, “otherwise inform the residents” about the ordinance and make sure they know the rules will be enforced within the jurisdiction.
Some examples of rules that may be established include, but are not limited to:
- Allowing golf carts to drive between sunset and sunrise if they have a windshield, brake lights, turn signals, and headlights.
- Requiring warning devices, such as horns.
Golf carts may be allowed on sidewalks if the sidewalks are at least eight feet wide and are adjacent to state highways. The speed limit is 15 mph.
Some local ordinances require golf cart driver’s (if they drive their carts on city streets) to be licensed drivers, the cart must be registered with the city and equipped with seat belts. Driver’s must also be insured.
Golf Cart as a Dangerous Instrumentality
In 1984, the Supreme Court of Florida determined that a golf cart, whether driven on a public roadway or a private golf course, meets all the qualifications of a dangerous instrumentality. The Court specifically said, “we hold that the dangerous-instrumentality doctrine, which imposes liability upon the owner of a dangerous agency, when he entrusts it to someone who negligently operates it, applies to golf carts.”
So, owners, and in some cases, the operators of the golf course if they are the owner of the cart, may be liable for damages if the person to whom they entrust the golf cart has an accident in which someone is injured or killed.
If you have been injured in a golf cart accident, or someone you love died as result of their injury, at Kaire & Heffernan, LLC, we personally care about our clients and do all that is possible to assure you collect all the damages to which you are legally entitled. Contact us for a free consultation.