It has been reported that golf cart injuries are occurring at a high rate. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), there are approximately 15,000 golf cart related emergency room visits in the United States every year. Based on the CPSC statistics, 40% of the injuries involve a person falling out of a car, and occur to children under the age of 16. Approximately half of the accidents occur on golf courses. The other half occur on streets or other public property. In affluent neighborhood communities, golf carts are increasingly being used on the road for short trips in affluent subdivisions and senior citizen communities because they are quiet and have low emissions.
Golf carts (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. Instead, golf carts are equipped with passive restraints that protect unbelted passengers from ejection, such as handles on each end of the seat. There are new federal regulations that cover low speed vehicles, but those rules apply only to vehicles with speed ranges between 20–25 miles per hour. Most golf carts are not subject to these rules because they travel less than 20 MPH. Since there are currently no occupant restrictions or seatbelt requirements for these vehicles set forth in the ANSI safety standards or manufacturers’ operator’s manuals, young children of any age are often permitted to ride in open, off-road vehicles that are capable of traveling up to 20 mph on flat ground.
Studies have revealed that passenger ejection is the dominant mode of injury in a golf cart. For instance, if an operator of a golf cart accelerates quickly into a turn, the passengers may flip over the seat retention device and land on their head. There are numerous reports of brain injury and death following just such a scenario. Researchers have recommended that if children are to ride on a golf cart with no seat belts, mounted hand holds should be provided to reduce the possibility of ejection. There is also a need for the passive hip restraints to be improved golf carts so-as to improve occupant retention. For vehicles that are not used strictly on the golf course, alternatives such as seat belts, doors and netting can also be used to improve occupant retention.
Furthermore, there are some companies that will modify golf carts to make them suitable for hunting or other off-road use. These type of vehicles are in particular need of doors and seatbelts because the utility is not diminished by such features as it may be with golfers – who need to get on and off the vehicle frequently. There have been numerous injuries and deaths occurring from golf carts that have been modified in this fashion. Some of the recommendations coming out of the research and testing of golf carts include the need to monitor children operating golf carts; mandatory installation of seat belts; safety netting; and the use of helmets. Without better designs by the manufacturers of golf carts, we will continue to see these injuries occur at an alarmingly high rate.
If you or a loved one was injured in a golf cart accident, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit. For a free consultation, contact the law firm of Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling our toll-free hotline at 1-877-446-9001, or by filling out our free online case evaluation form.