Where I live, on St. Simons Island, Georgia, the golf cart has exploded in popularity as a means of transportation around the island over the last 10 years.
While they generally come from the factory with a standard speed of not quite 20 MPH, I have noticed, and I am sure many have too, some carts that appear to have been “souped up” and that will run quite a bit faster than that as well.
The increased use of these carts to run down to the shopping center or the package store hasn’t come without presenting risks to users, passengers, and others, like bicycle riders, pedestrians, and sometimes, motorists. Simply put, industry standards for golf carts have lagged behind how consumers are using these vehicles, and people are getting hurt, sometimes severely. According to data gathered by the federal government, tens of thousands have been injured each year over the last several years, as popularity of these vehicles off the course has exploded.
Unfortunately, the manufacturers of golf carts are still building them for use on a golf course, not for Aunt June and the kids to make a quick run down to the beach or for barbeque with the kids. And thousands are sold around the country and operated without basic safety equipment, like seat belts, lights, roll bars, or overhead handles. Obviously, another design feature meant to keep occupants inside – doors – are not included.
That spells problems when people operate their golf carts too fast and turn suddenly, for example. As most people who have ridden in or driven a golf cart know, these machines will not corner like a sports car or motorcycle would on the winding roads of the north Georgia mountains.
After a sharp turn, an occupant can be easily ejected and land on a sidewalk, roadway, cart path, or parking lot, leading to disabling or even catastrophic injuries, like a broken arm or fractured shoulder, concussion or traumatic brain injury, hemorrhage or severe bleeding, or even death. Injuries like that are not just theoretically possible, they do happen. Young children are especially at risk. The driver has some protection against getting hurt badly, as he can anticipate the turn and hold on to the wheel, but passengers can be hurt badly in that kind of maneuver when they are ejected or thrown from the cart.
Saint Simons is a popular vacation area, which means that sometimes vacationers using the carts have not been properly advised, or may not have taken the time to read any instructions or warnings, such as to try to avoid the main thoroughfares such as Frederica Road and Demere Road, pull over for motorists where safe and reasonable to do so, use seat belts, make sure your driver has a driver’s license, and do not allow children to ride (sometimes swinging) in the rear facing, back seats. It is not a good idea to let your underaged grandchild to drive the cart on the public roadway. The excuses and hazards vary, and are sometimes seem understandable or easy to foresee, but the risks go beyond just causing slight delays and inconvenience to others on the road, which, of course, is a common complaint heard by many, and instead can cause a real danger of serious harm.
Depending on the circumstances, owners, operators, rental agencies, employers, manufacturers, and cart modifiers, among others, may share in the responsibility to avoid these kinds of injuries. If an injury occurs, there can be liability problems and disputes over insurance coverage that need to be addressed when people do get hurt.
Here is a link to a New York Times article that discusses some of these problems as well, The (Mostly) Safe Golf Cart, by Tanya Mohn: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/04/business/retirement/the-mostly-safe-golf-cart.html