Golf cart travel in South Florida has been on the rise for years now. However, the demand for golf carts amid the pandemic has given the industry a huge boost for those looking to get out of the house and into society – while staying safely socially distant. Of course, with more golf carts on the road than ever before, there is also a significant increase in golf cart incidents and accidents.
Recently, a 58-year-old woman with an open bottle of Jack Daniel’s whiskey was arrested for driving a golf cart down Florida’s busiest highway I-95 in Titusville while intoxicated. She now faces misdemeanor charges of disorderly intoxication in a public place and resisting an officer without violence. Worse still, a recent accident in Riviera Beach between a car and a golf cart left one dead. The hit-and-run happened in the early morning hours that are usually still part of someone’s night – 1:30 a.m. – with the driver of the getaway car, leaving the golf cart operator to die alone on the Blue Heron Bridge.
Unfortunately, these incidents are not anomalies. In fact, the statistics on golf cart accidents are rather startling:
- Every year, there are approximately 13,000 golf cart-related accidents that require emergency room visits, and that number is growing, according to data compiled by the United States Consumer Products Safety Commission.
- About 40% of these accidents involve children under the age of 16. Half result from children falling from a moving cart. That’s a hugely disproportionate number of young people injured when you consider that most golf carts are still used by adults on golf courses.
- According to an article in the July 2008 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the injury rate from golf cart accidents increased by more than 130% between 1990 and 2006. During this period, approximately 147 000 golf cart related injuries have been reported involving people. as old as 96 and as young as 2 months.
So why the increase in accidents?
This is partly because the use of golf carts has expanded to include activities outside of golf. They are now used for drop-off and pick-up at school, for running errands, and trends show that more and more children are riding them.
Another problem is that golf carts have become much faster and more powerful. Some can reach over 25 mph and travel over 40 miles on a single battery charge.
Finally, most golf carts are not federally regulated. This means that state and local regulations for golf carts vary from region to region. In Florida, for example, anyone over the age of 14 can drive a golf cart without a driver’s license.
To avoid golf cart accidents, drivers should remember the following rules: To be driven on public roads, golf carts must be equipped with safety features including seat belts, headlights, taillights, parking brake, windscreen and wipers, horn and rear and side mirrors. And like a car, they must be registered and have a license plate. Also, golf carts can only be driven in areas where the speed limit is less than 35 mph. And finally, when driving a golf cart, you are legally required to stay sober.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that if you’re involved in a golf cart accident, you should follow the same steps you would take for any other accident, such as a car accident or a boating accident. Be sure to exchange information, call 911 and get medical treatment, and write down as many details as possible. Talk to witnesses and get their statements and information, if possible. Finally, don’t forget to hire an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you file a lawsuit, if necessary.
Daniel Lustig is a partner at Pike & Lustig, LLP, a full-service Florida law firm specializing in personal injury and commercial litigation in Palm Beach, Broward and Dade counties. Visit turnpikelaw.com.