If you’ve ever received a warning for texting while driving in the state of Florida, then you’re extremely lucky. Starting New Year’s Day 2020 those warnings end.
Those of you who own a golf cart, shouldn’t think you’re off the hook either.
Florida Texting and Driving Laws
The texting and driving law in Florida was actually official in July of 2019, along with the texting ban in construction and school zones, that took effect in October. The last six months have been a period of “breaking in” this new law, with officers handing out warnings instead of hefty fines for texting while driving.
News Service of Florida exclaimed that over 800 warnings were issued during this time period, although some officers have issued fines upwards of $100 after taxes, court costs, and surcharges were added.
So where do golf carts fit in? Well, technically it all depends on what the state considers a golf cart.
In some Florida communities, like Viera, or Satellite Beach, you’ll find golf carts on neighborhood roads, or even on the sidewalks picking up or dropping off kids at school.
According to Melbourne Police Commander Claycomb, which was clarified through Florida State Patrol “if the registered vehicle is driving on a roadway, even if it’s a LSV (low speed vehicle), then the law still applies to those licensed drivers.”
Representative Emily Slosberg, filed HB-249, a bill that would make it illegal for those to operate a vehicle while holding onto an electronic communication device. This rule can be found in 20 other states across the U.S. including New York, and California.
Claycomb did mention that he hasn’t had to pull over any golf carts in his jurisdiction, but he did exclaim that distracted driving is prevalent, and is sure that this new law should help to cut down on texting while driving.
The previously mentioned, Satellite Beach, like many other Florida communities, have ordinances that allow LSV’s on the streets.
The Mayor Frank Catino has admitted that the Low Speed Vehicles look like regular old golf carts, but made very clear that all of the LSV’s must pass street legal laws, and have all the important safety features, which was the community’s main concern.
The Ordinance in Satellite Beach (1166), every LSV must be registered, along with PIP, or Personal Injury Protection, and property damage insurance. The speeds are limited to 20 to 25 mph, and each vehicle must have reflector triangles, windshield wipers, headlights, and of course seat belts.
In Florida, a golf cart is technically only allowed to operate on roads designated specifically for golf carts. Here’s where things get tricky, this changes from county to county. In some communities, you can drive your golf cart on 8 foot sidewalk, but no motor vehicle is ever allowed on a sidewalk.
In Brevard County, the golf cart is actually considered a “motor vehicle manufactured and designed only for sports such as golf courses.” The golf carts can only have a maximum speed of 15 mph on sidewalks and trails where posted. The golf carts do not need to be insured or registered.
In Brevard, according to its statutes, LSV’s are considered Neighborhood Electric Vehicles, or NEV’s. These, by definition are electrically self-propelled motor vehicles, that operated at a max speed of 25 mph, emission free, has 4 wheels contacting the ground, the loaded weight less than 1,800 pounds, equipped with headlights, turn signals, brake lights, mirrors, a windshield, and seat belts.
Bert Berrios, Police Commander in Satellite Beach, explained that the LSV’s in that area can only operate on streets where the speed limit posted is 35 mph or less.
“The same rules apply for any vehicle, including trucks, cars, etc, as it would for golf carts.” Berrios explained. “To be honest, we don’t see too much texting going on while driving golf carts. A lot of the time it’s the adult driving, and focused on the road, with children in the passenger seats.”
Berrios is definitely in favor of the texting ban while driving a golf cart, considering it’s much easier to see the person texting and driving. For other vehicles, how do you know that the person isn’t looking at a GPS? Can they prove you were texting? Berrios hopes that the law expands in the future.
“Unfortunately, you see a lot of bad things happen on the roadways and a lot of that is from distracted driving,” Berrios explained. “… maybe somewhere down the line, they’ll find a way to eliminate texting completely on golf carts. I mean, lets face it, the sidewalks are where you’re going to encounter the most pedestrians.”
Golf carts, LSV’s: The Differences
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles says there is a definite difference between the golf cart you’d see on a golf course and what they call a Low-Speed Vehicle, but looks are deceiving.
The Low-Speed Vehicle
- Section 320.01-41, Florida Statutes, defines LSVs as “any four-wheeled vehicle whose top speed is greater than 20 miles per hour, but not greater than 25 miles per hour.”
- LSVs must be registered, insured and titled with personal injury protection (PIP) and property damage liability (PDL) insurance.
- Any person operating an LSV must have a valid driver license in their immediate possession.
- LSVs may be operated on streets where the posted speed limit is 35 mph or less, and must be equipped with the standard safety equipment such as, brake lamps, Headlights, turn signals, tail lights, reflectors, parking brakes, rearview mirrors, seat belts, windshields, and a vehicle identification number (VIN).
The Golf Cart
- Golf carts are defined in section 320.01-22, Florida Statutes, 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.”
- Golf carts may operate on roads that are designated for golf carts with a posted speed limit of 30 mph or less.
- Golf carts may cross a portion of a county road which intersects a roadway that is approved for golf carts, or that intersects a golf course or mobile home park. In both examples the road should have signs posted that golf carts are able to share the roadway.
- The operation of golf carts on roadways must comply with any more restrictive ordinances enacted by the local government and should be verified prior to operating the vehicles.
- Golf carts are not required to be registered or titled and, therefore, are not required to be insured with Personal Injury Protection and PDL insurance coverage.
- Golf cart drivers are not required to have a driver’s license; however, to operate a golf cart on designated public roadways, the person must be at least 14 years old.
Texting/Driving Tickets Won’t be Cheap
If you think that your texting and driving ticket will be as easy as paying $30 for your first violation, and $60 for your second violation, think again. The taxes, court fees, and assessments will push those citations over $100, according to Florida Today.
According to Brevard County Clerk Scott Ellis, your first offense is considered a non-moving violation, and will cost you around $120 with no points added to your license, after adding the surcharges and court costs. The next offense will add three points to your license, and cost you around $170.
The bill passed October 1st made it so any violation for texting and driving in a school zone or construction zone would be an automatic 3 points and $170 fine.
According to The Zebra, which is the nation’s largest car insurance comparison marketplace, a distracted driving violation can cause an approximate 25% rate increase, which is about $509 a year (average). Your rates can rise depending on the violation, your car insurance pricing, and local insurance regulations. This is why tickets can have a different impact on insurance in your state compared to the national average.
Golf Cart Insurance
As far as comparing golf carts to automobiles when it comes time for insurance, there is a connection.
According to public relations specialist Danielle Marchell in Austin,Texas, the home base of The Zebra, most insurance companies offer add-ons to your auto insurance that allow you to customize your policy.
She exclaimed, “There is a miscellaneous type of vehicle endorsement, which extends coverage to other vehicle types not included in your standard policy. “This may include golf carts, motorcycles, scooters, and other vehicles.”
As you can see, texting and driving is a problem we have all over the nation, and that definitely includes those riding around in golf carts or LSV’s.
If you live in the state of Florida, and you own an LSV, make sure you keep up on your local laws, and always remember to stay focused while operating any vehicle! The fines, or injuries are most certainly NOT worth it!
If you have any questions, or information to add please leave us a comment below. Thanks for reading!