Texas Attorney General Paxton rules on whether license required to drive golf cart on public road

Texas Attorney General Paxton rules on whether license required to drive golf cart on public road

Image: Do you need a driver’s license to drive this vehicle? It’s Arnold Palmer’s golf cart, which tournament officials parked at the Bay Hill Club on March 16, 2017, during the Bay Hill Invitational Golf Tournament in Orlando, Florida.

The Golden Hammer Staff Reports

Austin and Conroe, April 7 – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton ruled that the Texas Transportation Code prohibits a person from operating a golf cart on a publicly maintained road, unless the person holds a driver’s license. Paxton issued the ruling in response to an inquiry by Montgomery County District Attorney Bret Ligon, the 10th largest county’s chief criminal prosecutor, and by B.D. Griffin, the Montgomery County Attorney who represents the Montgomery County government.

In a September 10, 2020, letter to Paxton, Ligon and Griffin asked “whether a person must hold a driver’s license to operate a golf cart on a publicly maintained road, as authorized by sections 551.403 and 551.404 of the Transportation Code.” They told the Attorney General that “local and state officials have expressed conflicting opinions about the necessity of a driver’s license to operate a golf cart on public streets as authorized in these statutes…Sections 551.403 and 551.404 [of the Texas Transportation Code] authorize the operation of golf carts on certain highways and other locations, but they do not address the necessity of a driver’s license to do so.

In response, Paxton issued his Opinion KP-0364 on Monday, April 5, holding, “Section 521.021 of the Transportation Code prohibits a person, unless expressly exempted, from operating a motor vehicle on a publicly maintained way any part of which is open to the public for vehicular travel unless the person holds a driver’s license. Sections 551.403 and 551.404 of the Code, which authorize a person to operate a golf cart in certain locations, do not exempt such persons from the driver’s license-holding requirement of section 521.021.”

Ligon spoke with The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, yesterday afternoon about Attorney General Paxton’s Opinion. “Many communities allow golf carts within their jurisdiction,” Ligon explained.Because of that, law enforcement is often called by residents concerned about youngsters on golf carts in situations that are often dangerous, i.e. too many people, overloaded carts, carts not on roadways, carts on roadways etc.”

Ligon continued, “Even though the law was clear that there was an ability for certain jurisdictions to provide allowance for operation of golf carts on roadways, there was still some debate as to whether drivers had to be licensed. County Attorney BD Griffin, who handles juveniles, and I wanted to make sure we were giving consistent advice on charging decisions to law enforcement.  Therefore, we chose to seek the opinion in tandem.” 

When asked whether he was happy about the outcome of Attorney General Paxton’s Opinion on golf carts, Ligon responded, “I was pleased that the AG rendered a concise opinion that will be easy to disseminate to law enforcement.”

Griffin did not respond to a request for comment.

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