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Golf cart

Better buckle up -- or maybe install seat belts -- if you drive a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle or your vehicle can seat more than two.  Or make your Plaza runs in the car until this is sorted out.

[Expanded June 20] Progress marched down Highway 16 in the last decade, turning the golf cart into the bigger, speedier electric vehicle, but no one cautioned us that progress needs a warning sticker. This week, the California Highway Patrol ticketed several Murietans for driving carts across Highway 16 and not using seat belts.

People in Rancho Murieta believe 35 years of history, not to mention state law, guarantee the right to drive a cart to the supermarket.

But, progress and all, it’s more complicated than that.  It appears the complications stem from the community’s adoption of the larger, multi-passenger carts, called Neighborhood Electric Vehicles or low-speed vehicles.  These vehicles carry equipment requirements, including seat belts, and the requirement that the seat belts be used at all times, including inside the community.  Standard golf carts apparently aren't impacted.

One Murietan was ticketed Wednesday as she drove her four-seat vehicle from the Village to the North Gate.  The vehicle has seat belts in the back but not the front, she said.

“The officer told me they were going to do ‘Click it or ticket’ enforcement all week on Highway 16,” said the woman, who asked that her name be withheld.

The state Office of Traffic Safety says the fine and fees for a first-time seat-belt violation total $132.  If children are without seat belts, the first-time cost is $435.

While the Murietan ticketed Wednesday accepts responsibility for the infraction, she said her family moved to the community in the last year and wasn’t told about the seat belt requirement.

“I received a two-inch-thick stack of documentation with all the rules I’m supposed to follow,” she said Friday of her move here.  “I went through the whole thing today and there’s nothing (about seat belts) in there.”

The Community Services District distributed the rules in late 2006, in advance of cart equipment requirements that allow Murietans to cross 16 in golf carts.  This week, after the CHP tickets, Security Chief Greg Remson distributed a version of the flyer and contacted the CHP for clarification.

On Friday, after talking with the CHP, Remson said standard golf carts are fine, but carts with rear seats may need seat belts to cross Highway 16 legally. That’s because they’re NEVs, or close enough to it to make a CHP officer reach for his ticket book.

Pointing to a gray area, Remson mentioned that some carts have seats where the golf bags normally go.  Most of these seats can be tilted up to allow golf bags, he noted, so which side of the line does that vehicle fall on?

The CHP is doing more research, both Remson and CSD President Bobbi Belton said Friday.

The California Vehicle Code defines golf carts and low-speed vehicles in terms of weight and driving speed, which will be used to unsnarl this tangle, but for your immediate needs, Remson defined the vehicle equipment requirements for crossing Highway 16 this way:

Golf cart
Must be used as a golf cart, with a designated place for golf bags, driven by a licensed driver, with one person per seat.
Daylight hours require a brake light, one rear reflector and a horn.
After dusk requires a brake light, one rear reflector, horn, head lamp and tail lamp.
Seat belts are not required.

NEV (Neighborhood Electric Vehicle) or Low Speed Vehicle
Must be driven by a licensed driver, have (and use) seat belts, with one person per seat.
Also required at all times are headlights, taillights, turn signals, stop lamps, reflectors, mirror, parking brake and windshield.

The Country Club sent a flyer to members Friday, warning about the tickets and echoing Remson’s instructions.

George Amaral, who handles cart repairs for the Country Club, said Friday that the recent flap hasn’t caused anyone to come in wanting seat belts installed, though one customer did ask about turn signals.

Adding seat belts is relatively inexpensive -- $40 or $50 installed, he said.

Amaral said adding turn signals to older carts can be challenging, as there may not be an installation kit for the model.  Newer carts are pre-wired for turn signals, he said.

Paul Gumbinger, then Rancho Murieta Association president, served on the group that worked with the CHP and sheriff to develop the cart/NEV plan that took effect in 2007.  It was required by the state law that allowed Murietans to use carts to cross 16.

"We spent a lot of time on it," Gumbinger said Saturday.  "But finally, blessed by the Highway Patrol and the sheriff, the policy that became effective Jan. 1, 2007, was that during daylight you needed a brake light, a reflector and a horn.  And at night you needed a brake light, reflector, a horn, a headlight and a tail lamp.  There was nothing about seat belts....

"But you know, they approved it.  It was for not only golf carts but Neighborhood Electric Vehicles.  For both.

"We were trying to make it as easy as possible.  The traffic consultants had some onerous things in there to begin with -- you know, windshield wipers, and they had seat belts in there.  We eliminated all that stuff."

That plan -- see a 1.7MB PDF file here -- leverages the existing rules of the RMA and CSD governing vehicle use on the community's streets. 

RMA rules require seatbelts to be used if they’re available.

Here’s what the RMA rule about vehicle passengers, adopted in 2002, says:

“All operators of and passengers in motor vehicles operated in Rancho Murieta shall be properly restrained by seat belts, and in the case of children under age of six (6) or weighing under sixty (60) pounds, shall be secured in a child passenger restraint that complies with California Vehicle Code Section 27360 (and the federal motor vehicle safety standards referred to in Section 27360). All operators of and passengers in low speed vehicles, modified or altered to exceed twenty five (25) miles per hour and therefore equipped with seat belts as part of their motor vehicle safety equipment, shall be properly restrained as set forth herein above. Golf carts and low speed vehicles operated as a golf cart as set forth in California Vehicle Code Sections 385 5 and 21115, that are not equipped with seat belts, shall transport no more persons than there are seats provided for carrying persons. It is a violation of this rule to carry a passenger on a golf cart or low speed vehicle operated as a golf cart, who stands on any part of the vehicle and is not properly seated in a single designated passenger seat. Three (3) passengers in or on a golf cart equipped with two (2) seats is a violation of this rule. The operator of a golf cart or low speed vehicle operated as a golf cart, that transports children does so at his/her own risk and peril.”

From the archives

Jerry Pasek's picture
Joined: 12/13/2007
Posts: 135
Post rating: 191

Cart Fines

Jerry Pasek

What do you expect when money is scarce in public coffers and safety folks get surplused? Go after the the citizens and get the "easy money" for trivial violations that have zero potential to harm others. Seat belt laws and similar,  are big brother/big governement gone amuck  and with the present administrations (all levels) it is gettng worse.  $138 is what I paid a few weeks ago when I left a parking lot in Rancho Cordova and the officer saw me buckle up as I turned down the public street. Yet, I can talk or text on my cell phone, be totally distractged by such actions and  it may costs me $25. Sanity may come into government again but a real change is needed........new elected officials, the non professional politician.

Jerry Pasek

RM.com's picture
Joined: 06/19/2007
Posts: 27726
Post rating: 1387

Addition to story

The story has been expanded to include comments from Paul Gumbinger, former RMA president.  He was contacted during reporting for the story but couldn't respond until today.

Doug Lewis's picture
Joined: 08/08/2007
Posts: 165
Post rating: 322

Golf cart vs NEV

  The California vehicle code defines an NEV as being able to travel over 20 mph.  Golf carts, unless modified are usually set below this at a 19.7 speed ( club car spec).  Golf carts also do not have to be registered ,licenced or have seat belts making it different than an NEV.  In section 21115 it says a cart is not an NEV but a NEV is also a cart.   All I see in the code is that street access and crossing can be granted to both carts and NEVs.  It doesnt say that a cart becomes an NEV when it isnt golfing that I see, nor any two seat vs four seat rule changing a cart to a NEV.  Does anyone have the code number that says this?

Concerning carts or NEVs being allowed on the road it says that the rules are not in effect until signage giving proper notice has been posted and I dont know if this exists on the plaza side of the street.

Out of fairness even if carts are going to suddenly be defined as an NEV there should have been some type of notification within the community before enforcement began.  An agency should not allow something for twenty years and then suddenly pull an enforcement fast one.  Its not like a lone cart whipped across the street for the first time in the history of RM.  When I worked traffic we would have called this duck pond enforcement and our courts frowned strongly on it. 

Its very confusing how a cart can be defined as an NEV when it comes to seat belts but not to licensing registration, speed etc.

As a side note Im curious why the country club has chosen to exclude any work or installations on non member carts.  I recently bought one and learned this.  The staff was very nice and helpful in giving me suggestions where to get things done but it just seems strange in a time when the club is hurting that they wont let their shop do outside work.  Im paying hundreds of dollars for work that I would have gladly given to the club shop. I realize membership has its privilages but this seems to hurt the club economically.  Even if they charged a bit more or made it a last priority appointment the club could gain revenue.


Doug Lewis


Doug Lewis

RM.com's picture
Joined: 06/19/2007
Posts: 27726
Post rating: 1387

More from the CHP

Here's the latest from Greg Remson, with more information from the CHP:

This is an excerpt of updated information sent to me from Lt. Ferrero of the CHP Rancho Cordova office. Attached are details from the CHP regarding the issue. Hopefully this will help clarify things.

From Lt. Ferrero:

When a golf cart is converted to a multi seat vehicle (by installing a bench seat, either temporarily or permanent) it does not become a low speed vehicle, it becomes a motor vehicle.  To my surprise, a low speed vehicle (or NEV) has to come from the manufacturer equipped and designated as a low speed vehicle.  There will be a sticker on it designating it as such.  There are some exceptions to this.  Some golf cart manufacturers equip their carts to look like motor vehicles, Hummer's or Cadillacs, for example.   Some of these golf carts would have a sticker designating them as an NEV and have all of the required equipment installed.

When a party converts a golf cart to carry more that two passengers and golf bags, it does not fall within the definition of a low speed vehicle because the manufacturer did not originally designate it as such.  It also does not remain a golf cart, because of the additional seats.  It become a motor vehicle.

As a motor vehicle, it must meet the same requirements as a car (seat belts, lights, turn signals, bumpers, registration, etc.)  This actually imposes more requirements than I originally thought of the residents who add seats to golf carts.

There are many technicalities regarding this but the officer was within the letter of the law to issue the citations.

This update helps further defines the rules. It seems that when the original golf cart plan was written, the issue of golf carts that are either modified to add extra seats or purchased that way was not an issue.

If you have any questions, please let me know.

There was also an enclosure, a Word file that offers legal citations, including the vehicle code.

Wilbur Haines's picture
Joined: 08/07/2007
Posts: 474
Post rating: 470

Paper trail?

Somebody needs to dig out the paper trail which would make a record of CHP signing off on the equipment specifications in the CSD plan.

Doug Lewis's picture
Joined: 08/08/2007
Posts: 165
Post rating: 322

Golf cart vs NEV

  So lets get this straight.  A golf cart which happens to have four seats instead of two, that travels slower than an NEV cant be classified as an NEV but is classified the same as a corvette.  Hmmm.  Doesnt make much sense.  I cant believe the intent of the law was to make these carts the same as a car.   The law defining a golf cart as a two seater was written in 1968 while the law on NEVs was modified last in 06 and 08.  Since 1968 the cart has come along way and golf carts used for golfing can seat more than two while still carrying clubs.  As the Lt. implies the industry has progressed further than the laws that control it.  I couldnt open the enclosure that the Lt included as reference but I cant find vehicle codes that define golf carts or NEVs (low speed vehicles) by what type of sticker a manufacturer has on it when its sold.  Also most all of the carts that have body kits installed are simply standard cart frames with the fiberglass changed. In fact the kits are ordered by what type of cart it is. 

While reportedly within  the letter of the law one would believe that these citations were written without taken the crossing agreement into account .  An important part of law enforcement is descretion and citing golf carts for no seat belts because they have 4 seats instead of two seems ridiculous. Especially when it has been an allowed practice with local law enforcement.   Its like citing someone for 60.5 miles per hour in a 60 zone because its within the letter of the law.  This is truely enforcing a technicality.

Many residents have altered their carts in good faith attempting to comply with the communities regulations.  Now we arent sure if a four seater is going to have to have bumpers, license plates and a registration.  Wilbur is right.  The paper trail needs to be shown to CHP and probably clarified before a prosecutor or judge.  While its simple and a safe idea to add some belts, it would be nice to know if the next letter of the law emphasis will be for bumpers or plates.  Thanks for your work on this Chief Remson and please try to get some idea of what standards we can expect from CHP from here on out.  I just bought a cart and I need to go to the store!!

Doug Lewis


Doug Lewis

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