You decide to have a drink on the golf course with your friends one day. As you get ready to leave in your golf cart, you wonder if it’s safe to drive with a bit of alcohol in your system. Can you drink and drive a golf cart safely and legally on the street?
You can legally drink and drive a golf cart while on private property. If you are inebriated while traveling on public roads, you are breaking American federal law and can be liable for a DUI penalty. Check your local regulations before operating a golf cart, as changes to the law can go unnoticed.
Below, I will discuss what circumstances constitute a DUI offense when using a golf cart. Additionally, I will explain what makes a golf cart street legal and how this pertains to drinking and driving on public and private lands.
What Constitutes a DUI Offense?
Licensed drivers are aware of the dangers that come with driving while intoxicated — there is a high risk of accident or severe injury when a driver does not have complete control of their vehicle.
Driving under the influence (DUI) offenses occur when a driver is proven to drive or operate a vehicle while intoxicated. Definitions for what constitutes a DUI vary in each state, but the two standard components are vehicle operation and the level of impairment caused by intoxication.
DUIs are serious charges and are considered criminal offenses in many states. Authorities often utilize breathalyzer tests to assess a seemingly intoxicated driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC). If a driver’s BAC is over 0.08%, they will receive a DUI charge.
Additionally, another element to be aware of is where a DUI charge can occur. Some states have made it illegal to drink and operate a vehicle anywhere within state limits, while other states apply DUI laws in public areas or on private land that’s open to the general public.
So basically, you are allowed to drink and drive a golf cart if you limit yourself to private property that is restricted to the public. If you’re handling a golf cart with alcohol in your system, check if your local state law permits it.
Golf Cart vs. Low Speed Vehicle
Although the names are sometimes used interchangeably, there are critical differences between a golf cart and a low speed vehicle (LSV).
The first difference between the two vehicular types is their maximum speed limit. Golf carts cannot operationally travel above 15 mph (24 kph). LSVs, on the other hand, must be able to travel at a speed of 25 mph (40 kph) or higher. LSVs are street legal, whereas golf carts are more intended for recreational use.
However, there are instances where golf carts are modified to meet LSV standards. Modified golf carts must possess the following safety features:
- Headlamps, stop lamps, tail lamps
- Turn signals on the front and rear
- Passenger side mirror, driver side mirror, rear-view mirror
- Parking brake
- A windshield
- Seat belts for each passenger
- Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
Unlike regular golf carts, LSVs must be registered and driven by a licensed driver under federal law. So if you intend to drink and drive a golf cart, check that the vehicle you’re operating hasn’t been converted into an LSV. Otherwise, you will need to ensure you have the proper documentation.
Places Where You Can Drive a Golf Cart
Golf carts are meant for the golf course, but they have gained traction as a convenient mode of transport on local roads. Here are the few states where you are allowed to drive golf carts on public roads:
|U.S. State||Conditions for operation|
|Street legal||License||Age limit||Municipalities|
States not listed in the table above only permit the use of golf carts on private property and golf courses.
You can read more on golf cart laws for each state in America here. Do note that state laws can change, so remember to check for the latest update before you take your cart out for a spin.
Do You Need a License To Drive a Golf Cart?
You need a valid driver’s license to drive a golf cart in some American states. Some states do not require a permit and will allow persons as young as 12 to operate golf carts. It is best to check the laws in your area if you are unsure.
Certain states allow minors above a certain age to drive golf carts while supervised by a licensed adult. In these cases, the adult is held responsible for any offenses the child might incur, including DUIs and accidents.
DUI Laws and Golf Carts
All states share one law in common: you can still get charged with a DUI if you are arrested and proven to be intoxicated while driving a golf cart on the street. Most local authorities consider golf carts as motorized vehicles, so laws on drinking and driving still apply.
The other possibility is you could risk violating open container laws, which prohibit both driver and passengers from having open bottles of alcohol while in a vehicle. Again, these laws vary by state. You can check out this article published by attorney John McCurley to understand open container laws.
Yes, you can drink and drive a golf cart, but only if you are on private land. You stand to violate certain state laws if you drive a cart while under the influence on public roads or on private property frequented by the public.
Take note of the differences between a golf cart and an LSV, as these require separate licenses to operate. Golf cart handling and ownership laws vary by state, so it is up to the driver to responsibly verify what is allowed before driving a cart.