A low-speed vehicle is described in California vehicle code 385.5 as a motor vehicle that meets specific requirements. It must have four wheels, be able to reach a speed of more than 20 miles per hour within a one mile stretch, and must not exceed 25 miles per hour. Further, the total gross weight rating of the vehicle can not be less than 3,000 pounds. Low-speed vehicles are not golf carts, as golf carts are designed to travel at even lower speeds, and are instead referred to as "neighborhood electric vehicles."
The benefits of driving low-speed vehicles are most obvious in a local setting. They produce less pollution than larger, faster vehicles, and can help people transport themselves at a slower rate, while using less gas.
Because these vehicles are not considered regular cars, they are subject to relaxed federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Low-speed vehicles are often lacking in safety features like air-bags that regular automobiles have. They are also considerably smaller and will suffer greater damage in a collision with a standard vehicle than the standard vehicle. The reason low-speed vehicles are allowed relaxed safety standards is because they are not designed to, and can not legally be driven over 25 miles per hour - ensuring that, despite the lack of safety features, the driver will be much safer traveling at a low speed.
Some people modify or alter their low-speed vehicle. If this is done, and the vehicle can exceed 25 miles per hour, the driver must note that the modified vehicle will not qualify for the relaxed federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Instead, the driver is responsible for operating the modified low-speed vehicle only if it means all of the federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for regular passenger vehicles.
As a vehicle is able to travel at higher speeds, the standards for safety also increase. Impacts, collisions, and accidents at higher speeds often involve more risk of personal injury, thus making safety provisions extremely necessary.
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