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Warm weather brings out golf carts – and golf cart accidents

golf cart accidentsBy Bob Young
Attorney and Managing Partner
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

In the past decade, golf carts have become popular for quick, easy and cheap transportation in neighborhoods, especially those near golf courses. Kentucky first allowed golf courses on public roads about 10 years ago. Golf carts are part of a class of vehicles called low speed vehicles. They’re quiet, inexpensive and considered by many to be easy to drive. Best of all, golf carts are usually rechargeable, so no gasoline is required.

Unfortunately, though, golf carts have become falsely believed to be safe, and even acceptable for those without a valid driver’s license to operate. Neither of those things are true. By law, golf carts are considered just like any other motor vehicle. You must have a valid driver’s license to operate a golf cart on public roads in Kentucky, and you must adhere to local and state laws that restrict the use of golf carts.

Golf cart laws

In Kentucky, the regulations on use of golf carts vary by municipality.

Most cities that allow golf carts on public roads restrict the time of day or night they can be used, and types of roads that are available to golf cart operators. In Bowling Green, golf carts cannot be on any roads that allow traffic to travel at speeds higher than 35 miles per hour, and golf carts may only be operated during daylight hours. Golf carts must be operated by a licensed driver if they are on public roads.

As you’ve probably noticed, golf carts are open-sided, and few, if any, golf cart drivers or passengers wear a seat belt. They’re lightweight, and can tip over easily if you’re going too fast. By law, seat belts are required in golf carts.

Golf cart accidents

The web site Pediatrics Safety wrote about golf cart dangers in an April 2014 article entitled, “The Dark Side of Golf Carts: Hidden Danger for your Family.” The article points to an explosion of purchases of golf carts, and recounts that children are often hurt in accidents involving golf carts. A 2008 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine indicates that 147,696 people were injured in golf cart accidents from 1990 to 2006. About 30 percent of those injured were children aged 16 years or younger.

Letting a child drive a golf cart is incredibly dangerous. If you wouldn’t let your child drive your car, they shouldn’t drive your golf cart, either.

Golf carts are also used in many workplaces. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has numerous reports on file for injuries and deaths that employees have suffered while being in or near a golf cart.

Tips for golf cart safety

Golf carts and other low speed vehicles are dangerous. If you own a golf cart, practice the following safe driving tips:

  • Stay on roads that are approved for driving under the law. In Bowling Green, Kentucky, where our firm is located, that’s roads with a speed limit of 35 miles per hour or less.
  • Stay under the speed limit.
  • Only allow licensed drivers to operate your low speed vehicle. Children should never operate a golf cart or low speed vehicle.
  • Use a seat belt when riding in or driving a golf cart.
  • Be careful on inclines and slopes and do not attempt to drive up a steep incline. These can be trouble for golf carts.
  • Never drive a golf cart after dark.
  • Add a reflector and horn to your golf cart if you do not have those already installed.
  • Be sure your golf cart is covered by your auto or home insurance. Just as you would with a car, make sure any injuries that occur to anyone in the golf cart – or anyone you might hit with the golf cart – are covered by insurance.

We can help with your golf cart injury

If you are injured in an accident involving a golf cart, treat it just as you would a car accident. Your first duty is to check for injuries and get medical attention if needed. If there is property damage at your home or injuries, please consult with an attorney who has experience with golf cart injuries before you accept any type of settlement.

Please let us know if we can assist you. You can reach me, attorney Bob Young, at byoung@elpolaw.com or (270) 781-6500.