The Common Law

Driving golf carts on Austin streets – is it legal?

I was at Whole Foods recently and saw someone come and go on a golf cart. They were driving the golf cart on the street. Is it legal to drive a golf cart on an Austin street?

It depends. Driving a golf cart on Austin streets can be legal, but only under certain conditions.

Section 551.403 of the Texas Transportation Code allows golf carts to be operated on a road that has a posted speed limit of 35 miles per hour or less, but only if it's during the daytime and no more than two miles from where it's usually parked and used for transportation to the golf course. That same section of Texas Code also allows operation of golf carts in county or municipality approved master planned communities that have a uniform set of restrictive covenants.

If driving on a public roadway under the conditions noted, the driver must follow all of the usual traffic laws. This includes possessing a valid driver's license (or learner's permit) and displaying the correct license plates for the golf cart. Golf carts traveling at a speed of not more than 25 miles per hour are also required to display a slow-moving vehicle sign.

The Texas Transportation Code also states that a county or municipality may prohibit or limit the operation of a golf cart on a public street if the county or city determines that the prohibition is necessary in the interest of safety. As a result, the rules for driving golf carts on public streets may vary depending on where the golf cart is being driven. As of May 2021, the City of Austin does not have any rules that further limit the Texas Transportation Code provisions. But other Central Texas municipalities have adopted specific rules on golf carts. For example, in the City of Rollingwood, city ordinance 32-140 explicitly prohibits the operation of golf carts on Bee Caves Road (excluding the intersection of Bee Caves Road and Edgegrove Drive). In the City of Lakeway, Sec 18.04.074 of Lakeway's city ordinances completely bans the operation of a golf cart on public streets within the limits of the city. So, if the summer heat has you thinking about cruising around town in your golf cart, be sure that you research and understand the applicable ordinances of the specific community where you intend to drive.

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to thecommonlaw@austinchronicle.com. Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.jmehlaw.com.

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or www.austinlrs.com.

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