Golf carts not legal on nearly all public roads

The in basket: Jeannette Johnson e-mailed to say, “I live in Indianola and am seeing several golf carts being driven on public roads. These vehicles have no plates, no seat belts or other safety devices that autos are required to have.  Is this legal? What happens if one collides with an auto?”
The out basket: There is a Washington State Patrol Web site that discusses this, where the local governing body has created a golf cart zone. The law says in part that such zones are “for the purposes of permitting the incidental operation of golf carts, upon a street or highway of this state having a speed limit of twenty-five miles per hour or less.” It’s at

I’ve never heard of the creation of such a zone in this county. I asked Trooper Russ Winger of the local patrol detachment what the rules are in the absence of a zone.

“My understanding,” Russ replied, “is that driving a golf cart on any type of public roadway is illegal and prohibited UNLESS operating within a legally established golf cart zone as provided in RCW 46.08.175. In addition, all applicable rules and regulations established under that RCW must be adhered to for legal operation of a golf cart within a zone.

“A golf cart is defined under RCW as being either gas or electric powered and capable of attaining a speed of not over 20 miles per hour. The only place a golf cart zone can be established is an area where the speed limit is 25 mph or less.

A golf cart driving on a highway or roadway would be a citable infraction regardless of the speed limit.

“It would also be possible to be arrested for operating a golf cart – in or out of a legally defined zone – while under the influence of alcohol or drugs,” Russ concluded.

As for Jeannette’s final question, my guess is that when a golf cart collides with an auto, the occupants of the cart deeply regret it.

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