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Do you Need a License to Drive an LSV in California?

Yes. California treats your low-speed vehicle much like a car. If you will be out on public roads, the driver will need to have a driver’s license.

Low-speed vehicles (LSV) are often the transportation of choice around large neighborhoods like golfing communities. And since they are allowed to travel alongside normal traffic on certain roads, they can also be used for shopping trips or touring in some areas of California.

Once an LSV enters any public road, drivers will need to have their driver’s license ready to present to an officer of the law. They’ll also have to meet other requirements in order to remain street-legal.

How Does California Define Low-Speed Vehicles?

Low-speed vehicles (LSVs), also known as neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs), are usually electric carts that weigh 3,000 lbs or less and can travel over 20mph, but not over 25mph. They often resemble golf carts but weigh more and go faster.

And since LSVs are made to be street-legal, they must have additional safety features, like seatbelts. These safety extras are meant to protect drivers and passengers in case a careless motorist strikes an LSV. Another safety precaution is keeping these smaller, more vulnerable vehicles off of routes with faster traffic flows.

California’s vehicle codes lay out the street restrictions for LSVs and NEVs this way:

CVC 21260.

“(a) Except as provided in paragraph (1) of subdivision (b), or in an area where a neighborhood electric vehicle transportation plan has been adopted pursuant to Chapter 8 (commencing with Section 1965) of Division 2.5 of the Streets and Highways Code, the operator of a low-speed vehicle shall not operate the vehicle on any roadway with a speed limit in excess of 35 miles per hour.”

You Need a Driver’s License to Drive LSVs in California

California requires drivers in LSVs to have a driver’s license. Young drivers who have a learner’s permit, also known as an instructional permit, would not be able to drive alone.

They could drive if they had an adult driver beside them at least 25 years old. The adult driver must be able to take the wheel in case of trouble.

Since a neighborhood electric vehicle is considered a car once it enters a roadway, there are other vehicle requirements placed on owners.

Owners and operators would also need to have these vehicle documents and identification aids:

  • Auto insurance
  • A VIN Number
  • A title
  • Registration
  • License plate
  • Driver’s License

For other legal and safety requirements for LSV ownership, check out Maison Law’s page on California LSV laws.

Have Your Driver’s License with You When You Drive a Low-Speed Vehicle

You’ll need to show proof of your driver’s license, your auto insurance, and your ownership of an LSV if you are ever involved in an accident. If you are stopped by police for another reason, failing to have proof of these important requirements could result in fines and restrictions on your driving privileges.

Keep these conditions in mind before you decide who can and cannot drive your neighborhood electric vehicle in California.

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