I’ve spent my fair share of hours on golf courses. Even though I'm not very good at the sport, as my friends remind me every chance they get, I find hitting the links to be a great way to spend time with friends and family outdoors in beautiful weather.
But an article in the April 8, 2012, Virginian-Pilot made me think twice about golf cart safety. According to the report, an employee at Trump National Golf Club in Loudoun County, Virginia (VA), suffered injuries when she rolled her golf cart. While the injuries were not serious, emergency responders were called to the scene and the woman had to transported to a hospital for stitches.
Then it struck that practically everyone I’ve ever played with has had a near-accident with a golf cart. Mostly, those incidents could be chalked up to just goofing around, and, certainly, golf carts being driven across park-like terrain don’t really strike most as dangerous vehicles. But a little digging into golf cart safety revealed that serious crashes are on the rise.
As explained in a New York Times article from 2008, injuries from being hit by or falling off of golf carts increased 132 percent between 1990 and 2006. In all, some 150,000 people, nearly one-third of whom werechildren, were hurt golf cart accidents over that decade. Half th reported injuries were related to falling or jumping from a cart or from a cart overturning.
There are lots of reasons for the increase in injuries. Today’s golf carts can go pretty fast — up to 25 mph. And they rarely have any safety features that are found in most moving vehicles. There are no seat belts or stability mechanisms or even doors to make sure you don’t get thrown from the cart. Plus, golf carts are being used a lot of places besides the grassy course these days—in gated communities, at state and national parks, at colleges and universities, on big business campuses. You might even see them in airports or at big sporting events. All of this puts golf carts on terrain that they weren’t initially designed for and has vastly increased the number of users.
So as we head into spring and summer, it’s a good idea to remember that golf cart safety needs to be taken seriously. Follow this advice when operating any golf cart:
- Slow down, especially in wet weather and on hilly terrain.
- Brake slowly, especially when going downhill.
- Do not make sharp turns at high speeds.
- Keep arms and legs in the cart at all times and place both feet on the floor.
- Sit back in the seat.
- Hold onto the handgrip when the cart is moving.
- Use available seatbelts.
- CDo not let children younger than 16 drive, and consider not letting let kids younger than 6 ride in carts.
About the Editors: The Shapiro, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.