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The Problem With Low-Speed Vehicles On Public Roads

Whether souped-up or green, low-speed vehicles (LSVs) have become more commonly used on golf courses, airports, subdivisions and apartment complexes. However, these inexpensive green machines are now allowed on regular motorways, and this is causing many people some concerns.

LSVs were originally designed to be environmental vehicles for limited purposes. Most don't reach speeds higher than 25 mph. However, these inexpensive, eco-friendly vehicles are permitted on public roadways in 46 states. Sixteen states have approved the sister vehicle, mini-trucks, as road-worthy as well. However, while states have allowed LSVs on major roadways, safety has become a real issue when it comes to car accidents.

With an estimated 45,000 LSVs on American roads, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have concerns about the danger of LSVs on the road and does not endorse their use on public highways.

In a recent report by the IIHS, LSVs and mini-trucks should not share busy public roads with other traffic. LSVs don't have to meet the same safety standards as other vehicles. While they are equipped with seat belts, headlights, reflectors and turn signals, they are not equipped with more substantial safety features, such as air bags, and may compromise decades of efforts to improve highway safety.

The IIHS also crash-tested some popular LSV brands, and the results were staggering. The impact tests reveal that serious or fatal injury could occur to passengers in LSVs. The IIHS was able to distinguish these results with microcars and more traditional vehicles, such as work trucks. Passengers could risk being killed, crushed or trapped in their vehicle even in low-speed impacts. Transportation, insurance and auto manufacturers have all endeavoured to reduce the risk of crashes and the use of LSVs on public roadways undermines these efforts.

LSVs may be part of a trend while state and federal governments are offering tax incentives for their purchase, such as those with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. However, if consumers wish to move away from traditional vehicles, they must consider safer options that offer greater fuel efficiency.