By: Fred Altvater
A 17-year study completed by the National Institute of Health on non-fatal golf cart injuries showed 147,696 injuries were treated in emergency rooms in the United States. Injuries to children under the age of 16 constituted 31% of that total and patients required hospitalization in nearly 8% of the reported cases.
Falling from a golf cart was the most common cause of injury. The large majority of those accidents, 70% occurred at sports facilities, while 15% occurred on the street, or on public property, and another 15% occurred at home or on a farm.
The number of golf cart-related injuries increased steadily each year, with a total increase of 132% over that 17-year period. Since the end of the study, golf cart usage has increased drastically, as well as, related injuries. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, there are approximately 15,000 golf cart related injuries requiring medical treatment in the U.S. every year.
I personally know two people, who have been affected by golf cart accidents that occurred on a golf course. Operating a golf cart, whether on the street on the golf course requires a level of conscious effort, which becomes more difficult if the driver is imbibing in his favorite adult beverage, while enjoying his round of golf.
Long time golfer and volunteer for the Marathon Classic, Joe Stechschulte was forced to miss the annual LPGA Tour event in Toledo last summer, due to injuries he sustained from a golf cart incident.
Over the 4th of July weekend, Joe was enjoying a round of golf with his son at Ottawa Park Golf Course in Toledo. On a hilly paved cart path, made slick by rain, the cart began to slide and as the right-side wheels caught on the curb, the cart flipped over. Stechschulte’s leg and ankle were caught under the cart, completely shattering his ankle.
Two surgeries were required to install several screws and plates to assure the bones would heal correctly. Two full months after the accident, he was still in a walking cast and boot, not allowed to put any weight on his foot.
Rich O’Brien, a PGA Professional in South Carolina, experienced a similar accident with more severe consequences. While riding as a passenger in a golf cart, Rich was thrown ten feet out of the cart. Similar to Stechschulte’s accident, the cart was descending a steep black-topped cart path on a left-hand S-curve, the cart hydro-planed on slick pavement.
O’Brien was not as lucky, however, his head struck the curbing, and he suffered double cervical and lumbar fractures to his spinal cord, as well as, multiple skull fractures, which resulted in several strokes and massive bleeding, causing significant damage to his brain.
His recovery was long and arduous. Doctors are amazed that he is not at least partially paralyzed from this trauma. He still suffers PTSD syndrome and cannot ride on the passenger side of a golf cart without experiencing stress.
Tip for Parents
Referring to tip No. 12 from the accompanying chart, if you are taking a small child with you to the golf course, never leave the key in the ON position, better yet, take the key completely out of the cart.
I can tell you this from my own personal experience.
Once my wife and I were warming up to play an afternoon round of golf at our local course. We had decided to take our two-year-old daughter along with us and she was impatiently waiting in the golf cart, not 10 feet away.
Our highly inquisitive daughter stomped her foot down on the gas pedal, with her hands on the steering wheel. The sudden jerk caused the cart to turn in a tight circle, at full speed.
My wife was yelling, my daughter was screaming and the golf cart kept careening. Luckily, it did not hit another cart, the big tree near us or slam into the clubhouse before I was able to jump onto the cart and pull my daughter off the gas pedal.
Our leisurely afternoon round of golf got off to something less than a relaxing start. At least no one and nothing was harmed in the adventure, but the results could have been much worse.
Check out the short list of safety tips for operating a golf cart on the course. There is a more comprehensive list of rules if you want to use your cart on city streets. Be mindful, don’t unintentionally injure someone or yourself, due to carelessness.
For a more comprehensive list of rules for operation on city streets at: http://www.golfcartsafety.com/safety-fundamentals
Safety Tips for Golf Cart Operation
- Never drive recklessly or joy ride.
- Never drive intoxicated.
- Only carry the number of passengers for which there are seats.
- Drivers and all passengers should keep all body parts (arms, legs, feet) inside cart while vehicle is in motion.
- Do not allow anyone to ride standing in the vehicle or on the back platform of the vehicle.
- Operate the vehicle from the driver’s side only.
- Carefully turn and look behind golf cart before backing up.
- Avoid sharp turns at maximum speed, especially on hillsides or slick cart paths.
- Drive straight up and down slopes to reduce the risk of passenger ejection, or rollover.
- Avoid excessive speed, sudden starts, stops and fast turns.
- Reduce speed due to driving conditions, especially hills or other inclines or declines, blind corners, and inclement weather.
- Do not leave keys in golf cart while unattended and make sure the parking brake is set.