With all its gorgeous golf courses and private communities, certain areas of South Carolina often feel like golf carts overrun them. But these are motorized vehicles—not toys—and anyone who intends to operate one must know the current South Carolina golf cart laws. If you fail to properly register your cart and don’t operate it in a safe, legal manner, you may face a fine and even imprisonment.
Keep reading to learn more about the state’s regulations regarding owning, operating, and sharing a road with golf carts from our experienced South Carolina personal injury lawyers.
Can You Drive a Golf Cart on the Road in South Carolina?
If you use a golf cart to get around your neighborhood or the local area, you should know that the laws governing the driving of golf carts on public streets recently changed. South Carolina does not restrict what you do with your golf cart on your property, but it can restrict their operation on public roads.
South Carolina’s many rules and regulations dictate when, where, and how you can operate a golf cart. In general, those with a legal, valid driver’s license can operate a golf cart on streets near their home with a speed limit of 35 miles per hour or less. Additional restrictions and exceptions do apply, though.
The Increase in SC Golf Cart Use Also Increases the Number of Injuries
Golf cart usage is rising, and because of that, a rise in golf cart accidents may follow. For instance, accidents can happen by allowing your underaged, unlicensed kids to drive, operating the vehicle while impaired, or taking similar actions. In that case, you could put yourself, your family, and the general public in danger.
Children are at alarmingly high risk, accounting for about one-third of golf cart injuries. For example, in a study at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, researchers analyzed golf cart accident victims younger than 18 treated at the university’s pediatric trauma center over eight years. They found half the injuries to be severe to moderate, and a quarter required a stay in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU).
An earlier study covering 17 years found that emergency departments treated almost 148,000 people for injuries related to golf cart usage. As you can imagine, many of these injuries were severe. This includes catastrophic, debilitating, and fatal injuries.
Other golf cart injury statistics include:
- Children under 16 accounted for almost one-third (31.2 percent) of the injuries.
- Over the 17 years studied, injuries rose steadily each year, with a total increase of 132.3 percent during the study.
- Nearly half of the injuries (47.7 percent) involved soft tissue damage.
- Roughly one in 13 cases (7.8 percent) required hospitalization.
- About 15 percent of injuries occurred on public roads and streets.
- Rollovers make up one in 10 golf cart accidents.
- Rollover accidents usually produce the most serious injuries and deaths.
If all golf carts had seat belts, serious injuries in rollovers would likely be fewer, but South Carolina does not require seat belts in golf carts. Few states do. However, many manufacturers offer models with restraint systems. Investing in one of these models can prove a good idea to help keep your family safe.
What’s Legal for Golf Carts in SC?
If you use a golf cart to get around your local area, you should know our state’s laws regarding owning and operating these vehicles. This is especially true if you plan to drive on public streets and roads.
Some key regulations include:
- You must have a valid driver’s license.
- You need a golf cart permit decal. You will need to show a title, proof of liability insurance, and pay five dollars to the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (SCDMV) to receive your permit. Permits must require renewal every five years or if you move.
- When you operate the golf cart, you must carry your license, registration, and proof of liability insurance with you.
- You may operate golf carts only during daylight hours.
- You may drive golf carts only on secondary streets and roads with speed limits of 35 miles per hour or less.
- You must travel only within four miles of the address listed on the cart’s registration. You may also drive a golf cart within four miles of an entrance or exit to a gated community. Local ordinances, however, can further restrict these distances, so check your locality to learn more.
- If on an island not accessible by a bridge designed for vehicle use, you may drive your permitted golf cart on any secondary road with a posted speed limit of 35 miles per hour or less.
- You may not drive a golf cart on a bike path.
- Golf carts must have headlights, taillights, and blinkers.
- It is illegal to drink and operate a golf cart. The same DUI laws apply to motor vehicles and golf carts. Just as you should worry about getting into a car crash if you drive drunk, worry about driving a golf cart the same way.
- An unlicensed minor cannot drive any vehicle on a public road in South Carolina, including a golf cart. Only people 16 years or older with a valid driver’s license may operate a golf cart in the state.
South Carolina law bars a minor with no driver’s license from driving any vehicle on a public road in South Carolina, including a golf cart. Parents should remember that they will bear liability if their minor child causes an accident or causes damages or injuries while driving a golf cart illegally.
Violations of South Carolina Golf Cart Laws
Rest assured, the police will be looking for violators of the new laws, so make it your business to know your South Carolina golf cart laws! You may face a misdemeanor conviction if caught breaking South Carolina golf cart laws. In addition, the court could fine you up to $200 and even sentence you to up to 30 days in prison!
You could face additional consequences, as well. This could include the loss of your permit, increased liability insurance premiums, and more. In addition, a conviction for a more serious crime, such as drunk driving, could come with significant fines, additional time in jail, and possibly a license suspension. This suspension would apply to both your car and golf cart.
What Happens After a Golf Cart Crash?
Accidents will happen even with strict rules about where and how you operate a golf cart. Whether the crash involves another cart, a car, or just your golf cart, you must know the next steps you need to take. If you or a loved one suffers injuries in this accident caused by someone else, you have rights.
The South Carolina personal injury laws apply to golf cart collisions just as in car accidents or when a driver hits a bicyclist.
This could mean:
- The driver of another motor vehicle bears liability for your injuries.
- The driver of the golf cart you were riding on bears liability for your damages.
- You are liable for the victim’s damages if you cause a golf cart accident.
If you cause a collision or other accident while on your golf cart, your required liability insurance policy should cover the injuries suffered by the victims outside of your immediate family. On the other hand, the liability insurance of the motorist or golf cart driver who causes your injuries could bear legal responsibility for your expenses and losses.
Proving fault in these cases is essential. If you suffered injuries, you may want to work with a personal injury lawyer who knows the state’s golf cart laws. They could help you file your insurance claim or sue the at-fault party.
Injury Lawyers Understand South Carolina Golf Cart Laws
Personal injury attorneys have a thorough knowledge of South Carolina golf cart laws and experience handling similar injury cases. If you suffered injuries in a golf cart accident, contact a law firm today.
Many injury law firms offer free consultations. If an injury lawyer takes your case, they generally only get paid if you do, so there’s nothing to lose.
Bert Louthian has been practicing law in Columbia with his father, Herb, since 1985. After receiving his Juris Doctorate from the University of South Carolina, Bert launched his legal career in his father’s firm. With 80 years of legal experience between them, Louthian Law, P.A. remains Family-Owned and Family-Focused.
Bert understands that when life goes wrong – when you or someone you love gets hurt or suffers a loss, it can feel like nothing will ever be right or fair again. He gets up and goes to work every day to prove that feeling wrong – and does everything in his power to make things right again.