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Should golf carts be allowed on public streets?

September 17, 2014 by Steven M. Gursten

Proposed bills would change golf cart laws in Michigan, allowing golf carts to drive on the streets of small towns

Golf cart driving on street

The terrible case where State Farm and Farm Bureau are refusing to pay No Fault PIP benefits to a seriously injured man who was struck by a car in his wheelchair – because the insurers claim his wheelchair should have been insured as a motor vehicle – got me thinking about a new piece of proposed legislation regarding golf carts.

Rep. Kevin Cotter (R-Mount Pleasant) wants to allow people to drive golf carts on the streets of small Michigan towns. Cotter has introduced House Bill 5045 and House Bill 5636 (October 2013 and June 2014, respectively) to try and make this happen.

In HB 5045, Rep. Cotter proposes that village, cities and townships with populations of less than 30,000 residents should be permitted to “allow the operation of golf carts on the streets …”

In HB 5636, he proposes changing the No Fault law to ensure that if two golf cart operators get in a crash, then neither of them could claim No Fault benefits.

Cotter accomplishes that by doing two things:

  • Amending the No Fault law to specifically define a “golf cart” as a “vehicle designed for transportation while playing the game of golf.”
  • Excluding “golf carts” from the No Fault law’s definition of “motor vehicle”, i.e., “Motor vehicle does not include … a golf cart.”

Cotter also distinguished golf carts from ORVs by specifying that both vehicles were excluded from the No Fault law’s definition of “motor vehicle.”

This might sound like a fun idea for golfers and people looking to zip around neighborhoods in small towns, beach towns and retirement communities more quickly. But as an auto accident lawyer, I can’t help but think about what some insurance companies will do to avoid paying claims when people riding golf carts on roads are inevitably involved in accidents with cars and other motor vehicles. After all, we already saw this year the lengths to which two of the biggest insurance companies in Michigan would go to refuse paying No Fault benefits to a man in a wheelchair, even though the insurance they claim he should have had doesn’t even exist! So one wonders just how unsafe this idea will be for golf cart drivers hit by cars.

Do you think golf carts should be allowed on the roads?

Next week, I will continue the connection between golf carts and how Cotter’s bills might actually help protect people in motorized wheelchairs and motorized scooters who are hit by cars.

Related information:

Is it legal to ride my golf cart or ORV on the road?

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