Golf Cart, Snowmobile and ATV Regulations


State Regulation of Golf Carts

Under Code of Iowa Section 321.247 golf carts:

  • Are not required to be registered or licensed by the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT).Can operate on city streets only if allowed to do so by the city council.
  • Are not allowed to operate on a city street which is a primary road extension through the city but are allowed to cross a primary road extension.
  • Can operate on city streets only from sunrise to sunset.
  • Must be equipped with adequate brakes, a slow moving vehicle sign and a bicycle safety flag.
  • Must meet such other safety requirements as the city may impose.

Under Code Section 321.174 it is unlawful for anyone to operate a “motor vehicle”, including a golf cart, upon streets and high­ways unless the operator has a valid driver’s license.

Under Section 321.20B golf carts cannot be operated on high­ways or city streets unless financial liability coverage (insurance) is in effect for the vehicle and the driver has proof of insurance in his/her possession.

City Regulation of Golf Carts

Many city ordinances simply mirror the basic requirements found in Section 321.247 of the Code, while other cities have cho­sen to more closely regulate or be more innovative in regulating the use of their streets by golf carts.

City Permit Required

Several cities require that before a golf cart can be operated on city streets, the owner must obtain a permit from the city and pay a permit fee. As a condition for issuance of a permit some cities require one or more of the following:

  • That the golf cart be inspected.
  • That the owner show proof of financial liability coverage.
  • That the operator has a valid Iowa driver’s license.

Some cities also require either that the permit be carried on the golf cart when it is operated on city streets or that the permit sticker be displayed on the golf cart.

Areas Where Golf Cart Operation is Allowed

Cities that regulate golf carts typically regulate where golf carts are allowed to operate, repeating the state law prohibition against golf carts operating on city streets that are also state highways and listing one or more additional streets where golf cart operation is either authorized or prohibited. Some cities allow golf cart opera­tion on restricted streets by community and civic organizations for community events including parades.

Additional Limitations on Operation of Golf Carts

Cities have also imposed additional prohibitions on the opera­tion of golf carts, including prohibition of:

  • Operation on public sidewalks, the area between the side­walk and the curb line and in cemeteries.
  • Operation on private property without the consent of the property owner.
  • Operation on city streets during inclement weather.
  • Operation in a careless, reckless or negligent manner.
  • Operation while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, narcotics or habit forming drugs.
  • Carrying more than two riders in the front seat, or more than two riders in the back seat if a back seat is provided.
  • Towing of any item by a golf cart.
  • Modification of a golf cart for increased speed.
State Regulation of ATVs and Snowmobiles

The state legislature has enacted two very similar statutes, Chapter 321I regulating ATVs and Chapter 321G regulating snowmobiles.

Under the provisions of Chapter 321I, an ATV is required to be registered with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and the registration and non-resident user permit decals must be displayed on the machine. The state code details several requirements of ATV operators:

  • Must have a user permit from the IDNR (including non-resident users).Must possesses a valid driver’s license in order to operate an ATV on streets and highways.
  • Who is 12 years old but less than 18 must have and display an education certificate issued by the DNR.
  • Can operate only on those city streets which have been designated for such use by the city council.
  • Is not allowed to carry a passenger unless the ATV is de­signed to carry passengers.
  • Is not allowed to operate on a city street which is a primary highway and can only cross a city street that is a state high­way with the permission of the DOT.


Under the provisions of Chapter 321G a snowmobile is re­quired to be registered in the name of the owner with the DNR and be issued a user permit, and the registration and permit decals must be displayed on the machine. According to the Code, snowmobile operators must:

  • Must have a user permit from the IDNR.
  • Age 16 and above, who possess a valid driver’s license and an education certificate, may operate on their own.
  • Ages 12 through 17 must have and display an education certificate.
  • Ages 12 through 15 must be under direct supervision of an adult.
  • Under age 12 must be accompanied on the same machine by a licensed adult.
  • Can operate only on those city streets which have been designated for such use by the city council.
  • Are not allowed to operate on a city street which is a pri­mary highway but are allowed to cross a primary highway.

Under Section 321.20B, ATVs and snowmobiles cannot be op­erated on highways or city streets unless financial liability coverage (insurance) is in effect for the vehicle and the driver has proof of insurance in his/her possession. Also, state law allows cities to adopt ordinances relating to the operation or equipping of ATVs and snowmobiles, provided that such ordinances are not inconsistent with those chapters of the Code or with the implementing admin­istrative rules adopted by the IDNR.

City Regulation of ATVs and Snowmobiles
Who May Operate an ATV or Snowmobile within the City

Some cities require that ATV and snowmobile operators must possess a valid Iowa driver’s license, and/or that they be of a minimum required age as determined by the city.

Areas Where Operation of ATVs and Snowmobiles is Allowed
  • A number of cities have adopted very similar provisions allowing ATVs and snowmobiles to:
  • Be operated on such streets as may be designated by resolu­tion of the council.
  • Be operated within the right-of-way of an operating rail­road.
  • Cross a railroad right-of-way, but only at an established crossing and using the improved portion of the crossing after yielding to all oncoming traffic.

Those ordinances also typically prohibit the operation of ATVs and snowmobiles:

  • In any park, playground or upon any other city-owned property without the express permission of the city.
  • On public sidewalks, in the area between the sidewalk and the curb line, and in cemeteries.
  • On any prohibited street except during emergencies (e.g. during the period of time when and at locations where snow upon the roadway renders travel by conventional mo­tor vehicles impractical and unsafe) or when plowing snow.
  • On private property without the consent of the property owner.
    Some cities also prohibit the operation of ATVs and snowmo­biles:
  • At a speed in excess of 25 miles per hour.
  • In a careless, reckless or negligent manner.
  • While under the influence of intoxicating liquor, narcotics or habit forming drugs.
  • In the area surrounding a hospital.
  • In the area surrounding any school from one hour before to one hour after the time school is in session.
  • In the area surrounding any church from on-half hour before to one-half hour after any church services.


City officials are encouraged to consult with their city attorney to develop city code provisions regulating the operation of these vehicles and to engage with their citizens throughout the process to ensure the community is aware of regulations being adopted.




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