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Policy and Design Considerations for Accommodating Low-Speed Vehicles and Golf Carts in Community Transportation Networks

Low-speed vehicles (LSVs) (in particular, neighborhood electric vehicles) and golf carts have become increasingly popular, particularly among older adults, as motorized alternatives to passenger cars. Numerous states and communities are grappling with legislative proposals that aim to address the increasing use of LSVs and golf carts for everday travel on local streets and paths. Safety considerations need to play a more central role in the design of the transportation networks that will accommodate these vehicles and in the regulation of their use. 

This Insight on the Issues describes the differences between LSVs and golf carts and provides a summary of existing federal and state regulations governing their use. Insights from four case study communities (The Villages, Florida; Peachtree City, Georgia; Western Riverside County, California; and Linton, Indiana) are featured. Based on this research, AARP’s Public Policy Institute provides policy makers and law enforcement officials with recommendations that address public education, licensing, registration and insurance, vehicle safety features, enforcement, and data collection. The authors offer city planners design recommendations for ways to accommodate these types of vehicles along streets and paths, and across intersections.

Well-designed networks for LSVs and golf carts could help fill a gap in the existing array of transportation options. They provide a convenient way for people to travel farther and faster than they would on foot or a bicycle, without having to use a car. Nonetheless, community planners, law enforcement officials, local and state policy makers, and users of these vehicles should not lose sight of the fact that these vehicles are much less safe to ride in than passenger cars. With proper planning, infrastructure design, public education, regulation, and enforcement, communities can safely accommodate LSVs and golf carts and improve the quality of life for residents of all ages.

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