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Recent State Legislation of Note

New Georgia Golf Car Statute Amendments (HB 877)

In March 2014 the Georgia General Assembly approved a comprehensive Bill (H.B. 877) amending the State’s motor vehicle code as it pertains to personal transportation vehicles. Following the Governor’s signature, the Bill became effective July 1, 2014.

Personal transportation vehicles a/k/a “PTV”s are defined as any motor vehicle: (A) With a minimum of four wheels; (B) Capable of a maximum level ground speed of less than 20 miles per hour; (C) With a maximum gross vehicle unladen or empty weight of 1,375 pounds; and (D) Capable of transporting not more than eight persons.

Provides Clarity for PTV owners:

  • Equipment requirements
  • Driver restrictions
  • Where a PTV can be operated
  • Rules of the road

Manufacturer/ Up-fitter Responsibilities are Defined:

Guidance for Local governments:

  • What to consider when adopting ordinances to allow PTVs
  • Creating a Transportation Plan
  • PTV lanes vs. Shared use path

 

New definitions were adopted in the new code:

Manufacturer [of a PTV] means “any person engaged in the manufacture of Personal Transportation Vehicles who does business in this state, including but not limited to any person who makes modifications to a vehicle that are not approved by the original equipment manufacturer and which may adversely affect the safe operation and performance of the vehicle.” This definition is significant because it was known some retrofitters of golf cars were adapting them for street use without conforming to the equipment specifications for a Personal Transportation Vehicle as previously adopted. Now the retrofitter will be treated as an original equipment manufacturer (“OEM”) and bear the responsibility of making the vehicle safe for street use.

Modifications made to PTVs that are not approved by the original equipment manufacturer may adversely affect the safe operation and performance of the vehicle. As stated in the American National Standard for Personal Transport Vehicles –

Safety and Performance Specifications, ANSI/ILTVA Z 135 (2012), (but not in the new Georgia code) if a Personal Transportation Vehicle has been modified by a party other than the original equipment manufacturer, the controlling party, i.e., the person responsible for the management and maintenance of a Personal Transportation Vehicle, shall (i) arrange for the modification to be designed, tested and implemented by an engineer expert in PTVs and their safety; (ii) maintain a permanent record of the design test(s) and implementation of the modification; (iii) make appropriate changes to the capacity, plate(s), decals, and operation and maintenance manuals; and (iv) affix a permanent and readily visible label on the PTV car stating the PTV has been modified with the date of the modification and the name of the organization that accomplished the modification. See www.iltva.org/standards.

“Shared Use Path” means a pathway outside the traveled way and physically separated from motorized vehicular traffic by an open space or barrier and either within the highway right-of-way or within an independent alignment and used by bicycles, pedestrians, manual and motorized wheelchairs, and other authorized motorized and non-motorized users. This definition was added from the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), Section 191, Shared Use Paths. See mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/‎. This definition is an important addition as it promotes the use of PTVs in environments where they may be safely deployed.

PTVs are exempt from VIN registration, however the need for some identification is necessary in case of theft or other incident. Thus, on every PTV, the manufacturer shall inscribe a permanent durable, corrosion-resistant nameplate(s) or marking(s), with unique serial number, manufacturer name, model name/code, date code, contact information, nominal system voltage, fuel type, and load capacity; the name plate(s) or markings(s) shall be of a height and width easily readable by the naked eye; the unique serial number may consist of letters, digits, or any combination of them; and the nameplate shall be easily accessible for inspection.

Local authorities are encouraged to adopt ordinances allowing for PTV use on their streets. As part of the inducement, the new code provides no local authority shall have any liability for losses resulting from exercising or not exercising inspection powers or functions, including failure to make an inspection or making an inadequate or negligent inspection of any PTV.

Having a safe environment and rules of the road are important for Personal Transportation Vehicle operation on public streets. The new code provides all PTVs are entitled to full use of a lane, and no motor vehicle shall be driven in such a manner as to deprive any personal transportation vehicle of the full use of a lane. The operator of a PTV shall not overtake and pass in the same lane occupied by the vehicle being overtaken. No person shall operate a Personal Transportation Vehicle between lanes of traffic or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles.

Personal transportation vehicles shall not be operated two or more abreast in a single lane. Similar rules already apply for low speed vehicles (“LSVs”), a vehicle capable of speeds up to 25 m.p.h.

PTVs shall be operated only on any highway where the posted speed limit does not exceed 25 miles per hour. The operator of a personal transportation vehicle shall not operate such vehicle on any highway where the posted speed limit exceeds 25 miles per hour. Because of the slower speed of PTVs, it is considered unsafe for them to be operated on roads allowing for other vehicles to travel faster than 25 mph.

Transportation planning is an essential element of creating a safe environment for PTV operation on pubic ways. Local governments are encouraged to adopt a transportation plan. If so, there are certain required criteria to be met.

The transportation plan shall have received a prior review and may include the comments of any agency having traffic law enforcement responsibilities in that local authority.

PTV transportation plans, shall do both of the following:

(1) Establish minimum general design criteria for the development, planning, and construction of separated PTV lanes, including, but not limited to, the design speed of the facility, the space requirements of the PTV, and roadway design criteria; and

(2) Establish uniform specifications and symbols for signs, markers, and traffic control devices consistent with the most current version of the MUTCD to control PTV traffic; to warn of  dangerous conditions, obstacles, or hazards; to designate the right-of-way as between PTVs, other vehicles, and bicycles; to state the nature and destination of the PTV lane; and to warn pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists of the presence of PTV traffic.

The transportation plan shall not include the use of any state highway, or any portion thereof, except that a crossing of, or a PTV lane along, a state highway may be included in the planifconsistent with accepted guidelines, recommendations, and criteria with respect to planning, design, signage, operation, and maintenance of Shared Use Paths or PTV lanes as set forth in the MUTCD and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Highway Safety Manual.

The construction of separated PTV lanes does not apply if a local authority’s governing body makes a finding that the street or roadway segment is suitable to safely permit the use of regular vehicular traffic and also the driving of PTVs. However, these street or highway segments permitting the joint use of roadways by regular vehicle traffic and PTVs shall meet all of the following requirements: (i) Have speed limits of 25 miles per hour or less, as established by an engineering and traffic survey. (ii) Be reviewed for purposes of this paragraph by the law enforcement agency with primary traffic jurisdiction over the street or roadway segments and who shall provide timely comment on the proposed plan. (iii) Accommodate PTVs without adversely impacting traffic safety or the travel needs of commuters and other users, according to a safety determination made by a traffic engineer.

Georgia is the principal place of business for the leading manufacturers of golf cars, Personal Transportation Vehicless, light utility vehicles and LSVs. Subsequent to the enactment of Georgia H.B. 877, numerous local governments have either revised or adopted PTV ordinances consistent with H.B. 877. Specifically, the Cities of Roswell, Conyers, Brookhaven, Savannah, Augusta among others have undertaken efforts to accommodate the safe use of PTVs in their communities. Adoption of a carefully crafted state statute permitting the use of PTVs within localities that authorize their use on public streets when specified safety standards are adhered to is an incentive to the enactment of PTV enabling ordinances.

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