Low Speed Vehicles: Cheap Alternative or Safety Hazard?

low speed vehicles

Electrically powered low speed vehicles have gained in popularity beyond normal driving in gated golf course designed communities. In almost every state these low speed vehicles are allowed on public roads for use mostly for neighborhood shopping, short trips and recreation in retirement or residential golf communities. Their status as an inexpensive alternative to regular gas powered cars is the main reason for the gain in popularity. 

Speed Restrictions

There are minimum speed limit restrictions. Low speed vehicles can only be driven on streets where the posted speed limit is no more than 35 MPH. Usually these vehicles are not capable of a speed greater than 25 MPH. The "normal" golf cart used predominately in a gated golf course community is not capable of speeds greater than 15 to 20 MPH, restricting those vehicles from public roads. 

Low Speed Pricing & State Credits

Depending on the model, the average price is between $12,000 to $17,000. Part of the popularity of the low speed vehicles (LSV's) and neighborhood electric vehicles (NEV's) can be attributed to the $2,500 tax credit allowed under the 2009 American Recovery & Reinvestment Act. California has an additional $1,000 incentive for various electric models.  

Vehicle Safety

  • Traffic studies show clearly the results can be devastating for the low speed vehicle when a collision occurs with a normal small family vehicle. Crash damage resistance does not exist for low speed vehicles.
  • Low speed vehicles have limited protection because they lack doors and windows.
  • Most low speed vehicles are made of plastic and have no reinforced steel.
  • Lack of noise can be a hazard because other "normal" car drivers don't recognize when a low speed vehicle is near. 
  • Newer drivers of low speed vehicles may face pressure keeping up with traffic.

Helpful Tips For Low Speed Vehicle Users

  • Display a "Slow Moving Vehicle" sign.
  • Operate low speed vehicle only on roads posted with a maximum speed of 35 MPH.

Public Opinion/Environmental Issues

Public opinion, government agencies and insurance industry executives are against the use of low speed vehicles on public roads normally used for regular vehicle traffic. Low speed vehicles are quiet, operated electrically or by battery power and do not use gasoline thereby eliminating pollution. Non-modified low speed vehicles, neighborhood electric vehicles and mini-trucks (kei-class vehicles) are regulated by state and local laws and are not subject to federal laws. 

Low Speed Vehicle Definitions

  • Low speed vehicle - a four wheel vehicle with a speed not greater than 25 MPH.
  • Neighborhood electric vehicle - a four wheel vehicle with a speed not greater than 25 MPH. These vehicles have more design features than a golf cart and may look more like a regular small passenger vehicle.
  • Personal golf car - individuals can travel on public roads, to and from a golf course and drive on roads for use not related to golf.
  • Speed modified golf car - capable, after modification, to travel in excess of 25 MPH.