In 1998 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) established a limited set of safety standards for low-speed vehicles (LSVs) intended for vehicles used "to make short trips for shopping, social, and recreational purposes primarily within retirement or other planned communities with golf courses." To qualify as an LSV, a vehicle must have 4 wheels and a top speed of 20-25 mph.
LSVs are exempt from most federal safety standards that apply to motor vehicles, and they are not required to meet any criteria for vehicle crashworthiness. Each LSV must be equipped with headlamps, taillamps, stop lamps, reflectors, mirrors, a parking brake, a windshield, and seat belts.
States, not NHTSA, are responsible for regulating the operation of motor vehicles on public roads and for handling LSV titling and registration. Most states allow LSVs to attain speeds no greater than 25 mph on roadways with speed limits of no more than 35 mph. Four states (Connecticut, Mississippi, Montana, and Pennsylvania) do not have statutes allowing the use of LSVs on their public roads. Many states allow their departments of transportation or local jurisdictions to restrict the use of LSVs on their roads.
The table and map below show which roads LSVs are allowed to be driven on and their top legally attainable speeds.
Passenger car: must comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards,
including crashworthiness standards
Medium-speed vehicle: has a speed of at least 30 but not more than
35 mph and has some safety equipment such as lights, reflectors, mirrors, parking
brake, windshield, and safety belts
Low-speed vehicle: has a speed of at least 20 but not more than
25 mph, is used primarily for short trips and recreational purposes, and has some
safety equipment such as lights, reflectors, mirrors, parking brake, windshield,
and safety belts
Minitruck: sold as off-road vehicles for farms and construction
sites and are far smaller than conventional on-road small trucks; can reach top
speeds of 55 mph or more, but many have governors to limit their speed to 25 mph
Golf cart: designed and manufactured for operation on a golf course