Golf carts on roadways

What rules, if any, are there about golf carts on a Jackson County road operated by a 14-year-old?

— A. E. Walker, Central Point

So many things come up from this simple question. Golf carts are allowed on highways under certain conditions found under ORS 810.070. Condensed down, it says that a road authority, on any of its own highways that are adjacent to a golf course, may permit the operation of golf carts between the golf course and the place where golf carts are parked or stored within or bounded by a real estate development.

The "road authority" would be the state, county or city, depending on where the road is. There are subsections in the law that say roads designated for golf carts must have signs giving notice of the shared roadway and that use of carts on a roadway must be carried out safely. The statute also exempts golf carts from being registered.

So, in general, except for those who live in close proximity to a golf course, I'd say that golf carts are prohibited no matter what the driver's age.

There are exceptions for disabled people, but there are restrictions there, too. Disabled people can get a disability golf cart permit ($44 from the DMV) to drive a golf cart or similar vehicle on roads, but only in certain circumstances.

ORS 820.220, titled "Operation of low-speed vehicle in prohibited area," says that a person commits the offense if the person has a disability and the person operates a golf cart or substantially similar motor vehicle on any highway with a speed designation greater than 25 mph.

The definition of a "low-speed vehicle" means a four-wheeled motor vehicle with a top speed of more than 20 mph but not more than 25 mph.

I also checked with Mike Kuntz, the Jackson County roads engineer, and he says that Jackson County has not adopted any golf cart ordinances. So it appears to me that it's legal to drive a golf cart on a public road only if:

  • A person lives near a golf course and the appropriate road authority has designated the road as legal for golf carts, or;
  • A person is disabled and driving on roads with speed limits of 25 mph or less.

Dace Cochran is a patrol sergeant with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department.

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