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Traffic Tips: Rules for driving electric wheelchairs, golf carts

By Victoria Advocate
Jan. 20, 2013 at 10:05 p.m.
Updated Jan. 19, 2013 at 7:20 p.m.


This is the last in a series looking at laws for bicycles, mopeds, motorized wheelchairs and other mobile devices.

We thought this topic was timely because so many people received bicycles and other modes of transportation for Christmas and are still learning to use them properly.

Also, many people around town use their electric wheelchairs as a means of transportation, so this chapter of the Texas Transportation Code also includes the rules for them.

This week, we talk about golf carts and assistive mobility devices such as electric wheelchairs.

Subchapter C. Electric personal assistive mobility devices

Sec. 551.201. Definition. In this subchapter, "electric personal assistive mobility device" means a two nontandem wheeled device designed for transporting one person that is:

(1) self-balancing and

(2) propelled by an electric propulsion system with an average power of 750 watts or one horsepower.

Sec. 551.202. Operation on roadway. (a) A person may operate an electric personal assistive mobility device on a residential street, roadway or public highway with a speed limit of 30 mph or less only:

(1) while making a direct crossing of a highway in a marked or unmarked crosswalk,

(2) where no sidewalk is available or

(3) when so directed by a traffic control device or by a law enforcement officer.

(b) A person may operate an electric personal assistive mobility device on a path set aside for the exclusive operation of bicycles.

(c) Any person operating an electric personal assistive mobility device on a residential street, roadway or public highway shall ride as close as practical to the right-hand edge.

(d) Except as otherwise provided by this section, provisions of this title applicable to the operation of bicycles apply to the operation of electric personal assistive mobility devices.

Sec. 551.203. Sidewalks. A person may operate an electric personal assistive mobility device on a sidewalk.

Subchapter D. Neighborhood electric vehicles

Sec. 551.301. Definition. In this subchapter, "neighborhood electric vehicle" means a vehicle that can attain a maximum speed of 35 mph on a paved level surface and otherwise complies with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 500 (49 C.F.R. Section 571.500).

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles may adopt rules relating to the registration and issuance of license plates to neighborhood electric vehicles.

Sec. 551.303. Operation on roadways. (a) A neighborhood electric vehicle may be operated only on a street or highway for which the posted speed limit is 45 mph or less. A neighborhood electric vehicle may cross a road or street at an intersection where the road or street has a posted speed limit of more than 45 mph. A neighborhood electric vehicle may not be operated on a street or highway at a speed that exceeds the lesser of:

(1) the posted speed limit or

(2) 35 mph.

(b) A county or municipality may prohibit the operation of a neighborhood electric vehicle on a street or highway if the governing body of the county or municipality determines that the prohibition is necessary in the interest of safety.

(c) The Texas Department of Transportation may prohibit the operation of a neighborhood electric vehicle on a highway if that department determines that the prohibition is necessary in the interest of safety.

Subchapter F. Golf carts and utility vehicles

Sec. 551.401. Definitions. In this subchapter:

(1) "Golf cart" and "public highway" have the meanings assigned by Section 502.001.

(2) "Utility vehicle" means a motor vehicle that is not a golf cart or lawn mower and is:

(A) equipped with side-by-side seating for the use of the operator and a passenger;

(B) designed to propel itself with at least four tires in contact with the ground;

(C) designed by the manufacturer for off-highway use only and

(D) designed by the manufacturer primarily for utility work and not for recreational purposes.

Sec. 551.402. Registration not authorized. (a) The Texas Department of Transportation may not register a golf cart for operation on a public highway regardless of whether any alteration has been made to the golf cart.

(b) The department may issue license plates for a golf cart only as authorized by Section 504.510.

Operation. (a) An operator may operate a golf cart:

(1) in a master planned community:

(A) that has in place a uniform set of restrictive covenants and

(B) for which a county or municipality has approved a plat;

(2) on a public or private beach or

(3) on a public highway for which the posted speed limit is not more than 35 miles per hour, if the golf cart is operated:

(A) during the daytime and

(B) not more than two miles from the location where the golf cart is usually parked and for transportation to or from a golf course.

(b) The Texas Department of Transportation or a county or municipality may prohibit the operation of a golf cart on a public highway if the department or the governing body of the county or municipality determines that the prohibition is necessary in the interest of safety.

Sec. 551.404. Operation in municipalities and certain counties. (a) In addition to the operation authorized by Section 551.403, the governing body of a municipality may allow an operator to operate a golf cart on all or part of a public highway that:

(1) is in the corporate boundaries of the municipality and

(2) has a posted speed limit of not more than 35 mph.

(a-1) In addition to the operation authorized by Section 551.403, the commissioners court of a county that borders or contains a portion of the Guadalupe River and contains a part of a barrier island that borders the Gulf of Mexico may allow an operator to operate a golf cart or utility vehicle on all or part of a public highway that:

(1) is located in the unincorporated area of the county and

(2) has a speed limit of not more than 35 mph.

(b) A golf cart or utility vehicle operated under this section must have the following equipment:

(1) headlamps,

(2) taillamps,

(3) reflectors,

(4) parking brake and

(5) mirrors.

Sec. 551.405. Crossing certain roadways. A golf cart may cross intersections, including a road or street that has a posted speed limit of more than 35 mph.

The Victoria Police Department Traffic Safety Unit invites citizens to inform us of any traffic issues that you observe. The easiest way to do this is go to the Victoria Police Department website, then go to the VPD Customer Service Request tab in the center of the page and follow the directions.

If you have a traffic law question, contact Senior Police Officer David Brogger, Victoria Police Department Traffic Safety Unit, 361-485-3700.

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