Did you know that you can get a DUI in a golf cart?
Just ask the people in Peachtree City, Georgia where citizens are routinely charged with DUI for driving their golf carts home instead of being congratulated for being responsible and not driving a 5000-pound car. Police even comment that the golf cart paths that wind through Peachtree City, Georgia like a spider’s web are magnets for DUI death and destruction. Curiously, there has never been a DUI death or even a serious injury DUI charge arising out of a golf cart operation in Peachtree City. (please correct me if I’m wrong). Peachtree City police tend to enforce DUI laws on golf cart paths at night only and not at the street crossing between fairways of Peachtree City’s many golf courses during the day. Sounds a bit like selective enforcement. Georgia law treats golf carts curiously.
A golf cart should not motor vehicle for purposes of O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391 because it is explicitly defined as an Off-Road vehicle under Georgia Law. O.C.G.A. § 40-7-1 only authorizes a civil penalty for violations in a Golf Cart and requires state and local authorities to adopt ordinances to even regular off-road vehicle use. O.C.G.A. 40-7-3 provides in pertinent part:
As used in this chapter, the term “off-road vehicle” means any motorized vehicle designed for or capable of cross-country travel on or immediately over land, water, snow, ice, marsh, swampland, or other natural terrain and not intended for use predominantly on public roads. It includes, but is not limited to, four-wheel drive or low-pressure tire vehicles, two-wheel vehicles, amphibious machines, ground effect or air-cushion vehicles, and any other means of transportation deriving power from any source other than muscle or wind, except that such term shall exclude any motorboat; any military, fire, or law enforcement vehicle; any vehicles used exclusively on airports; all farm machinery, farm tractors, and other self-propelled equipment for harvesting and transportation of forest products, for clearing land for planting, for utility services and maintenance, for earthmoving, construction, or mining; and self-propelled lawnmowers, snowblowers, garden or lawn tractors, or golf carts, while such vehicles are being used exclusively for their designed purposes.
See generally, Crosby v. Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., 240 Ga.App. 857, 524 S.E.2d 313 (1999), reconsideration denied, certiorari denied, certiorari granted, reversed 273 Ga. 454, 543 S.E.2d 21, on remand 249 Ga.App. 247, 548 S.E.2d 30 (holding that the seatbelt statute applies to SUVs only because 40-7-3 had to be read in para material with 40-8-76.1 which expressly includes SUVs). Further, no signs have been erected notifying the public that the ordinance governing the operation of Golf Carts has been erected under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-331 in Peachtree City.
However, the Georgia Court of Appeals has interpreted the Off-Road Vehicle Act of 1975 not to apply to golf cart DUIs. This Appellate logic began with an appeal governing the need for a driver’s license in a golf cart. OCGA § 40-5-20(a) provides that “[n]o person, except those expressly exempted in this chapter, shall drive any motor vehicle upon a highway in this state unless such person has a valid driver’s license under this chapter for the type or class of vehicle being driven.” In COKER v. The STATE, 261 Ga. App. 646, 635 S.E.2d 849 (2006), the Georgia Court of Appeals held that since the golf cart was a device in which a person may be transported upon a highway and the Defendant in Coker did not invoke the provisions of the Off-Road Vehicle Act under Title 40, Chapter 7 of the Georgia Court that it was exempted from Chapter 5 and 6, it was a “vehicle” under OCGA § 40-1-1(75). Since it was self-propelled, it was a “motor vehicle” under OCGA § 40-1-1(33). Cf. Hinton v. Interstate Guaranty Ins. Co., 267 Ga. 516, 519-520, 480 S.E.2d 842 (1997) (tractor is interpreted as a motor vehicle under uninsured motorist statute). Since the Defendant in Coker v. State, supra, drove it upon a highway of this State, he was required to have a driver’s license. See 1969 Op. Atty. Gen. 69-194 (drivers of go-carts on public highways must have driver’s licenses). 583 S.E.2d 498 (2003).
This reasoning of the Golf Cart driver’s license case was then expanded in 2006 to include golf cart DUIs. In Simmons v. State, A06A1517 (2006), the Georgia Court of Appeals held that pretermitting the question of whether or not golf carts fall within the definition of “off-road vehicle” found in OCGA § 40-7-3, the DUI statute by its plain language applies to “any moving vehicle” even Golf Carts on Golf Cart paths and not just Golf Carts on public streets. The issue appears closed for now in the Appellate Courts unless the Georgia legislature gets involved to clarify that DUIs do not apply to golf carts which sounds like the reasonable thing to do. It probably should not be legal to drive a golf cart drunk but it should not be the same as driving a 5000-pound car while under the influence either.