As I drive through my neighborhood, I notice that more and more of my neighbors and their children are driving golf carts. On one occasion, I saw a neighbor take his golf cart out of the neighborhood and down on a busy highway as he tried to reach another neighborhood. What my neighbor and many others don’t realize is that there are specific laws pertaining to golf carts in South Carolina. If you own a golf cart or thinking about getting one, this article will help you to be familiar with South Carolina’s laws concerning golf carts, how to avoid criminal or civil liability for operating one improperly, and some facts regarding golf cart injuries.
Who Can Drive a Golf Cart in South Carolina?
Only licensed drivers 16 years of age or older. That means that it is illegal for young children or unlicensed drivers to drive a golf cart on a public road (which includes your neighborhood). It doesn’t matter if you’re seated next to your child; they still can’t drive. Also, if your child has an accident, you can be criminally liable for endangering your child and civilly liable for “negligent entrustment” for any accident caused by your child.
Do I Need to Register My Golf Cart in South Carolina?
Golf carts must have a permit decal and proper registration issued from the Department of Motor Vehicles. Registration requires proof of ownership and liability insurance for the golf cart. The registration fee is $5. Permits are valid for 5 years or until the permit holder changes their address. Validation decals are issued for a period of 12 months, except for carts which do not require the payment of property taxes.
Where and When Can I Drive a Golf Cart in South Carolina?
During certain holidays such as Halloween, I frequently see neighbors pile themselves and their kids on a golf cart to drive through the neighborhood. In South Carolina, you can only drive a golf cart during DAYLIGHT hours. During these hours, you can drive on secondary highways or streets with a speed limit of 35 mph or less.
You can cross a highway or street at an intersection even if the highway or street being crossed has a speed limit of greater than 35 mph. However, you can’t go too far. Specifically, you must stay:
- Within four miles of the address on the registration certificate,
- Within four miles of a point of ingress or egress to a gated community, or
- On an island not accessible by a bridge designed for use by automobiles.
A local ordinance (such as a county or city ordinance) can reduce the distances above down from four miles, but can’t reduce it less than two miles, so if you are traveling more than two miles from your house or entrance to the gated neighborhood, make sure there are no local laws prohibiting this.
What Happens if I Violate South Carolina’s Golf Cart Laws
As of November 19, 2018, violation of South Carolina’s golf cart laws is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $100 or 30 days in jail.
Do I Need to Keep Anything with Me While Driving My Golf Cart in South Carolina?
Yes, you need to have at all times while driving on a road:
- The registration certificate issued by the DMV,
- Proof of liability insurance, and
- Your driver’s license.
Are There Any Special Laws Regarding Driving a Golf Cart in South Carolina?
Other than the distance limitations above, golf carts are subject to the same laws as normal motor vehicles. Do not think you have right-of-way simply because you are driving a low-speed vehicle. And be very careful. If you get in a wreck, regardless of who’s fault it is, the injuries could be terrible.
Can I Drink Alcohol on My Golf Cart?
Not legally. You can get charged with DUI and/or for having an open container just as if you were driving a car.
A Few Facts Concerning Golf Cart Injuries
While we are on the subject of golf cart laws in South Carolina, it is worth noting how many people are injured by golf carts every year. Golf carts appear to be safe because they are slow-moving and easy to operate. However, golf carts offer little protection to occupants.
A study conducted at Ohio State University looked at the frequency of injury from golf carts at a nationwide level using emergency room medical treatment recorded through the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System database. The study found:
- Between 1990 and 2006, there were an estimated 147,696 injuries reported from golf cart accidents.
- 38.3% of the injuries were due to falling off the golf cart, making it the highest cause of injury.
- One-third of the victims were children.
In another study on golf cart injuries, researchers in Alabama looked at 48,255 accidents and found:
- Most lower-body injuries were soft tissue injuries.
- For the upper torso and shoulder/arm regions, fractured bones were the most common type of injury.
- For the neck and head region, concussion and subdural hemorrhages were the most common injury.
Charleston Criminal Defense Attorney for Golf Cart Accidents or Golf Cart Violations
We hope this short article tells you what you need to know about golf cart laws, and we hope you and your family have nothing but enjoyable experiences from owning the golf cart. If you’re in an accident or charged with a crime, contact the criminal lawyers at Futeral & Nelson to learn your rights and see if we can help.