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Low Speed Vehicles

Moose Inspecting
Moose inspecting DOT&PF Central Region Annex building, Anchorage.
Photo by Joe Gibbons , Alaska DOT&PF
Alagnak River
Sunset on Alagnak River June.
Photo by Michael Hall, Alaska DOT&PF
Matanuska River
Matanuska River near Palmer.
Photo by Dave Krause, Alaska DOT&PF

February 17, 2010, Sitka, Alaska – Governor Sean Parnell performed his first bill-signing ceremony, making Senate Bill 59 a law.

The legislation, sponsored by Senator Bert Stedman and Representative Peggy Wilson, allows low-speed electric vehicles on roads with posted speed limits of 45 mph or less. Previously, the law only allowed electric cars to operate on roads with posted speed limits of 35 mph or less. A ceremonial bill signing was held at the Sitka Chamber of Commerce, where Governor Parnell was the keynote speaker./p>

“In the tourism sector, there has been some interest for use of these vehicles as ‘excursions’,” Governor Parnell said. “Many Alaska communities such as Sitka have few road miles and low traffic volume, providing a suitable environment for electric cars. This bill and the vehicles it allows in smaller communities across the state can boost tourism and local economies, and provide opportunity for Alaska families."

SB 59 allows municipalities to opt-in and expand access of low-speed vehicles at their discretion.

Low Speed Vehicles (LSVs)

Federal Regulations:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) first adopted regulatory standards for low speed vehicles in 1998. The NHTSA regulations define a low speed vehicle (LSV) as a motor vehicle that (1) has four wheels; (2) can attain a speed in one mile on a paved, level surface of at least 20 miles per hour and not more than 25 miles per hour; and (3) has a gross vehicle weight rating of less than 3,000 pounds (49 CFR Sec. 571.3).  The regulations do not limit LSVs to being electrically-powered.

The regulations require all LSVs to be equipped with: (1) headlamps, tail lamps, and stop lamps; (2) front and rear turn signals; (3) red reflex reflectors on both sides and the rear; (4) an exterior mirror on the driver’s side and either an exterior mirror on the passenger side or an internal mirror; (5) a parking brake; (6) a windshield that conforms to the federal standard for glazing materials; (7) a vehicle identification number that conforms to federal standards; and (8) a seat belt meeting federal standards at each designated seating position (49 CFR § 571.500).

Governor’s Highway Safety Association policy statement:

While GHSA  does not specifically address maximum speed limits on roads, state highway safety offices have concerns about the visibility of low speed vehicles, especially ones that share the road with large commercial vehicles.

Low speed vehicles (LSV) are defined by NHTSA as those that are able to travel at 25 mph or less. Low speed vehicles are exempt from almost all federal safety standards applying to cars,
and they are not required to meet any crashworthiness tests.

GHSA recommends that LSV’s meet additional federal vehicle conspicuity standards so that they are more visible to nighttime drivers. Further, GHSA urges states to review their regulations for
low speed vehicles to ensure that more vehicles are registered, licensed and limited to roadways
where there would be few potential conflicts with higher speed vehicles.

Other State Laws:

Most of the states have a maximum speed limit of 35 MPH. Montana is the only state which allows LSV on roads with speed limits up to 45 miles per hour, and Colorado authorizes municipalities to determine where they may operate.

In August 2008 Kentucky Governor Steven Beshear issued an Executive Order which authorized the use of low speed electric vehicles to operate at up to 50 mph, on roads with a maximum speed limit of 45 mile MPH.

Senate Bill 59: "An Act relating to the operation of low-speed vehicles"

Current law only allows electric cars to operate on roads in Alaska with posted speed limits of 35 mph or less. If enacted, SB 59 will allow low-speed electric vehicles to travel on roads in Alaska with posted speed limits of 45 mph or less. AS 28.35.261 (c) gives any municipality the ability to opt-out and restrict the operation of low-speed vehicles within its jurisdiction.