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Driving golf carts will remain illegal as the low-speed law goes into effect

Driving golf carts will remain illegal as the low-speed law goes into effect

This July, Newporters may see a few new types of vehicles on municipal roads, but while their small, boxy shape and limited speed may resemble golf carts, these low-speed electric vehicles are completely street legal.

Concerns on social media recently led to untrue claims that the city of Newport would allow golf carts to operate on municipal streets this summer. While golf carts, as they are sold, are not built for street driving and therefore cannot be driven on Newport’s winding roads, low-speed electric vehicles, or LSVEs, are. Unlike golf carts, these compact, four-wheeled micro cars can reach a top speed of 25 miles per hour and, according to a new law, must be equipped with a number of key features that make street-legal vehicles safer, including front and rear headlights. turn signals and seat belts. These safety features are described in the bill as requirements for these vehicles.

“It was specifically pointed out that these are not golf carts,” said Tom Shevlin, director of communications in Newport. “Golf carts do not fall into this category and that is stated in state law, so the DMV will not allow you to register a golf cart as a low-speed electric vehicle unless you have tricked it into meeting those requirements. minimum thresholds.”

Although the Rhode Island General Assembly passed House Bill 2023-H 5457A and Senate Bill 2023-S 0419 passed in 2023, the law will not go into effect until July 2024. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Terri Cortvriend (D-Dist 72, Portsmouth, Middletown) and endorsed by several Newport County legislators, including Reps. Lauren Carson, Michelle McGaw, John Edwards and Alex Finkelman. Senator Louis DiPalma introduced the Senate version of the bill.

The new law also places some restrictions on the use of LSEVs. The vehicle must be registered with the state and they are only allowed on streets with a speed limit of up to 56 kilometers per hour. Municipalities may also ban their use on specific roads if they believe that the use of LSEVs poses an unreasonable risk of death or serious injury to the occupants.

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The City of Newport has yet to pass an ordinance regarding these vehicles, despite the city’s previous desire to regulate other alternative modes of transportation appearing on the streets, such as electric bicycles and electric scooters. In fact, a bill (H7321) was passed in March that would allow the city to enact ordinances regulating the use of these vehicles. However, the city has included an exception in Rhode Island’s general laws since 2018, allowing low-speed commercial vehicles to operate as jitney service on local roadways.

Even though the law hasn’t gone into effect yet, there are already owners in Rhode Island selling LSEVs in anticipation of the summer. J2 Construct owner Jeff Lipshires opened Classic Coast Motors in 2022 and showcased a few at Audrain Motor Week that year.