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Golf cart injuries highest among teens, seniors

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Golfers use them to get from one location to another, and so do seniors.

In fact, golf carts are the preferred way of travel in many retirement communities across America.

But there's a dark side to this fun ride – the fatality and injury statistics – and they're quite shocking.

During 2010, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports dozens of people died in golf-cart related accidents.

According to The University of Alabama at Birmingham, the national estimate for golf cart-related injuries was more than 15,000 annually during its recent four-year study.

The injuries were highest among males, ages 10 to 19, and those 80 and older.

Unlike motor vehicles, there is little federal regulation of golf cart use. In most states, there are no rules requiring operators to be a certain age, wear any particular type of safety equipment, or obtain an operator's license.

America Now Reporter Jeff Rivenbark visited Sun City Carolina Lakes in Fort Mill/Indian Land, SC, where the major roads throughout this retirement community have designated lanes for golf carts.

These lanes, however, are just a few feet away from where cars and trucks are zipping by at a much faster speed.

Resident Pete Commerford says that's why he and his fellow golf cart drivers must always pay attention.

"Be obviously aware of where you are, and what's around you, who's behind you, who's in front, and on either side," Commerford warns.

Experts say golf cart drivers have to pay just as much attention to the actions of those inside a golf cart.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says 40 percent of all golf cart accidents result in someone falling out of the cart.

Many of these mishaps involve small children who aren't able to put both feet firmly on the golf cart's floor for stability.

Even teen passengers whose feet are able to reach the floor are getting hurt in golf carts.

Teenager Carter Vance lives in a golf cart community in another state and remembers getting injured when the cart he was in crashed.

"I was riding around and we took a really sharp turn and it flipped over this way," Vance recalls.

Experts say most teens and children simply lack the driving experience necessary to operate a golf cart safely.

Furthermore, many states don't require golf carts to be equipped with standard safety features required in motor vehicles like a windshield, mirrors or signal lights.

While most golf carts aren't equipped with seatbelts, that's something you could easily have added. 

In fact, experts say seatbelts are the number one thing every golf cart needs.

Ken Nelson, who is also a resident at Sun City Carolina Lakes, had four seatbelts installed on his golf cart for about $150.

"Oh yeah, I don't worry at all when I have the grandkids and they're with me a lot," Nelson says.

Another safety feature you may want to consider purchasing is a panoramic mirror.

"It gives you a very clear view of what's going on behind you," Alan Sterling says while looking in his mirror to see what his granddaughters are doing on the back seat. 

Signal lights are a great way to let other drivers know you plan to turn.

You should also use hand signals in case a vehicle or golf cart driver behind you is unable to see the signal lights blinking.

Making gentle turns and avoiding manhole covers could prevent your cart from flipping, and keep everyone safe in their seat.

Some experts recommend children 6 or younger should not ride in golf carts at all, and that teens younger than 16 should never be allowed to drive them.

Most golf carts can travel at a minimum speed of 20 to 30 miles per hour. If you have a 'souped-up' engine that allows your golf cart to scoot down the road at a faster speed, then you should consider having more safety features installed to protect the driver and passengers.


Additional Information:

The following information is from an article entitled "Golf Cart Occupant Ejections" published by the Technology Associates Engineering Experts (Source: http://technology-assoc.com/articles/golf-cart-hazards.html). 

  • Based on CPSC statistics, roughly 40% of golf car accidents involve a person falling out of the car, and many of these accidents involve young children. In addition to ejection accidents, approximately 10% of golf car accidents involve a rollover and statistics indicate that such accidents are roughly twice as likely to lead to injuries requiring a hospital stay as non-rollover accidents.
  • Golf cars (when used on golf courses) are typically not equipped with seatbelts because of their need to allow passengers to enter and exit the vehicle frequently with ease. Therefore, the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) golf car safety standard, Z130.1, does not require seatbelts for golf cars.
  • CPSC injury statistics indicate that approximately 40% of all golf car related accidents involve children (i.e. age < 16) and 50% of these involve a fall from a moving car. As a result, children represent a dramatically large portion of all ejection accident victims.
  • According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), there are approximately 15,000 golf car related injuries requiring emergency room treatment in the US each year.

The following information is from the American National Standards Institute (Source: http://www.ansi.org/news_publications/media_tips/golf.aspx?menuid=7#.UEeqJ1QzM7A)

  • The first step in golf car safety is for both the manufacturer and the user of the equipment to be well informed. Because the Z130.1 standard is voluntary, implementation of the standard cannot be mandated. However, users of golf car equipment are encouraged to investigate whether the equipment they use or own has been properly constructed in accordance with the criteria referenced ANSI/NGCMA Z130.1 and to become familiar with the safety and usage manuals, and the instructional labels, provided with every golf car.

The following information is from the International Light Transportation Vehicle Association, Inc. (Source: http://www.iltva.org/standards.aspx). ILTVA, formerly known as National Golf Car Manufacturers Association, Inc. (NGCMA), is an accredited standards developer under the auspices of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

  • Golf cars are defined under ANSI/NGCMA Z 130.1 as a vehicle used to convey a person or persons and equipment to play the game of golf in an area designated as a golf course.
  • If a vehicle is capable of 15 MPH or more under the foregoing circumstances, it does not constitute a "golf car." It will be considered either a Personal Transport Vehicle, ("PTV"), or a Low Speed Vehicle, ("LSVs").

The following information is from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (Source: http://www.nhtsa.gov/cars/rules/rulings/lsv/lsv.html).

  • Most conventional golf cars, as originally manufactured, have a top speed of less than 15 miles per hour. These states have either redefined "golf carts" to include vehicles designed to achieve up to 25 miles per hour or have established a new class of vehicles, "neighborhood electric vehicles," also defined as capable of achieving 25 miles per hour.
  • Under current NHTSA interpretations and regulations, so long as golf cars and other similar vehicles are incapable of exceeding 20 miles per hour, they are subject to only state and local requirements regarding safety equipment. However, if these vehicles are originally manufactured so that they can go faster than 20 miles per hour, they are treated as motor vehicles under Federal law.

The following information is from the The Birmingham News website in an article entitled "UAB study estimates golf cart accidents injured 1,000 people a month" (Source: http://www.al.com/news/birminghamnews/index.ssf?/base/news/1213085734222891.xml&coll=2).

  • About 1,000 Americans a month are being injured in golf cart accidents, with many mishaps occurring off the links as the tiny, low-cost vehicles are increasingly used for general transportation, according to a UAB study released.
  • Fractures and head trauma were the most common injuries found in the study. The highest injury rates were found in 10- to 19-year-old boys and men older than 80.
  • The study noted that golf carts are designed specifically for use off public roads, with speeds not to exceed 15 mph, although they can be easily modified to travel faster. They lack many of the safety features required.
  • There is little federal regulation, and most states do not require operators to be of a certain age, use any sort of safety equipment or obtain an operator's license," for vehicles traveling public streets, such as windshields, signal lights and mirrors.

Click here to read more about The University of Alabama at Birmingham study entitled, "Incidence of Golf Cart-Related Injury in the United States" (Source: http://journals.lww.com/jtrauma/Abstract/2008/06000/Incidence_of_Golf_Cart_Related_Injury_in_the.22.aspx).

The following golf cart safety tips are from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine:

  • Drive at a reasonable speed, considering the weather and terrain.
  • Brake slowly, especially on downhill slopes.
  • Avoid sharp turns at high speeds.
  • Passengers should put both feet firmly on the golf cart's floor, keeping their arms and legs inside the cart at all times.
  • Sit back in the seat so the hip restraints can help.
  • Be prepared to use the handgrip to prevent a fall.
  • Use seatbelts, if they're available.
  • Consider not letting let kids younger than 6 ride in golf carts and not letting kids younger than 16 drive golf carts.

Click to read an article entitled "Golf Cart Injuries On The Rise" published by Science Daily (Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080610071908.htm).

Data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System found golf cart-related injuries jumped 130 percent from 1990 to 2006 (Source: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/brain-and-behavior/articles/2011/07/08/golf-cart-head-injuries-on-the-upswing-study-finds).

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