Where Can You Legally Drive A Golf Cart In Baltimore Maryland?
The recent horrible mischance involving a three-year-old boy, who tragically hit and fatally injured his 7-year-old brother while operating a golf cart in Fort Myers, Florida, garnered national attention. While the hearts, minds and prayers of all are with the families, involved, this raises a number of potential legal issues: personal injury and potential a prosecution. Although this was not a Baltimore golf cart accident case, As the reader will surmise, there are both potential criminal and civil claims to come in the days and weeks ahead.
In Maryland, generally, golf carts although meeting the legal definition of motor vehicle, must be operated on private property, as they are not subject to registration by the state. It’s been observed that the electric golf cart was invented by Merle Williams, an American entrepreneur, in 1932. Williams was the founder of the Marketeer Company in Redlands, California. He designed the first electric golf cart to help golfers move around the golf course more easily, replacing the traditional method of walking or using caddies to carry their clubs. The early golf carts were rudimentary compared to today’s models, but they served as the foundation for the modern golf carts that are commonly used on golf courses and in various other settings for transportation purposes. It is in this latter capacity that the potential threat of legal liability looms largest, as over the years, golf carts have evolved and become popular in many different industries and recreational activities due to their practicality and convenience.
Maryland law provides 4 separate subsections governing the potentially legal roadway use of golf carts in specific geographic jurisdictions:
- Section 21-104.2 – Person operating golf cart on highway; City of Crisfield, Somerset County
- Section 21-104.3 – Person operating golf cart on highway; community of Golden Beach Patuxent Knolls, St. Mary’s County
- Section 21-104.4 – Person operating golf cart on highway; Town of Vienna, Dorchester County
- Section 21-104.6 – Golf cart on a county highway on Upper Hoopers Island, Middle Hoopers Island, or Taylors Island, without registration
Maryland law also creates an exception for vehicles used in a specific manner: see e.g. Section 21-104.5 – Personal delivery device. However, it’s essential to be aware that local regulations and requirements may vary, so it’s crucial to check with the specific county or municipality where you plan to operate the golf cart. Additionally, keep in mind that even if a minimum age is imposed, or some licensing or use requirements are imposed, some areas may have additional restrictions or licensing requirements for operating a golf cart. For the most current and accurate information, check with your local city and county authorities.
A ”golf cart” is not specifically further defined in the Chapt. 21 of the Transportation Article, Rules of the Road. A “golf cart”, unlike other low-speed vehicles, is not subject to registration in Maryland. Some confusion has arisen between golf carts and low-speed vehicles. Maryland law does not consider a golf cart to be a low-speed vehicle. Indeed, the Motor Vehicle Administration specifically tells us what a loa speed vehicle is, and is not; “What is a low-speed vehicle? A low-speed vehicle is a four-wheeled motor vehicle that: Has a maximum speed capability that exceeds 20 miles per hour, but is less than 25 miles per hour; it Complies with the standards for the safety of such a vehicle set forth in Federal Motor Safety Standard 49C.F.R.571.500. Note: A Golf Cart IS not considered a low-speed vehicle”
In terms of criminal responsibility, many similar questions between civil v. criminal responsibility, no doubt arise. In a criminal case, the degrees of responsibility are viewed differently from responsibility in a civil matter. For example, in a criminal case, the law typically requires proof of a voluntary act, accompanied by a guilty state of mind. In appropriate circumstances, that guilty state of mind can include things such as negligence, but perhaps not the garden-variety kind. This distinction may become important in cases, such he one mentioned in the opening paragraph. A criminal statute might punish conduct only where it is specifically foreseeable that the harm that ensues from the conduct actually occurred. In this tragedy above, is it foreseeable that a 3-year-old, could, in fact, gain control and fatally operate a golf cart and foreseeable enough, so as to lead to the imposition of criminal responsibility? It would be a tough call for the Baltimore City States Attorney to make. A similar argument may be raised with respect to a civil case under the principles in effect in most jurisdictions. Each person has a duty to protect his or her fellow citizens from harm. The standard does not impose strict liability to protect from all harm, but only that harm that is reasonably foreseeable so as to be within what some legal scholars have called the “zone of danger”. A famous legal case highlighted the notion that where there is an extraordinarily tenuous connection between wrongful conduct and resulting harm, it might not be just, under those circumstances, to impose responsibility for that harm as it would be unforeseeable. Might a defendant argue that there is no duty to protect a third party from harm caused by a three-year-old operating a golf cart, because that eventuality is so remote as to be uncertain and that any imposition of legal liability because of such conduct would, in fact, be unfair.