Usually running at less than 11 miles per hour, a golf cart is the last thing you would think would be a cause of countless road accidents. Unfortunately, that is just the case. Between 1990 and 2006, there has been an estimated 147,696 golf cart-related injuries, 30% of which involved children under 16 years of age. This is according to a study published by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2008. Interestingly enough, the number seems to just keep on going up. If you are a golf enthusiast, this would make you think twice and even make you wonder if riding a golf cart is ever safe.
Generally, golf carts are safe and are very useful. They make life comfortable, not only for golf lovers, but also for people who utilize such vehicles for public or personal use in schools, hospitals, or retirement communities. What usually makes a golf cart or golf cart riding risky is actually the person driving it, and not the golf cart itself. This is especially true if the vehicle is in excellent condition and shows no evidence of not being safe for driving.
Driver standing rather than sitting; driver texting while driving; driver letting legs and arms hang outside the cart; driver operating the vehicle even when intoxicated – these are where golf cart-related accidents usually stem from. And yes, while you think they only apply to real cars on real roads, the rules of the road also apply to the cart path in your favorite golf course. Having said that, here are important things to keep in mind to stay safe while driving your golf cart:
Follow the Marked Path
The cart path exists for a reason, and that is to keep golf cart drivers and their passengers within the safety limits of the course. Stay within the limits of the marked path and try not to divert. If you come across a warning sign, head back and find a safer alternative route. Keep in mind that most golf carts don’t have passenger brakes, which means it is your responsibility as the driver to stay alert and keep your passengers safe.
Don’t Show Off
This rarely happens, but you can be sure that many people do this. Showing off usually involves driving the golf cart too fast, which in most cases lead to injuries. Try to maintain a safe speed to avoid accidents. The ball won’t go anywhere, anyway.
Don’t Let the Kids Drive
As mentioned earlier, 30% of golf cart-related injuries involve children under the age of 16. Aside from the fact that kids can be careless, most kids also can’t reach the floor sitting down, giving them less control over the vehicle. In any case, children below 16 years of age shouldn’t be allowed to drive. It is your responsibility to make sure this is implemented, whether you’re on a golf course or in any other place where you use the golf cart as a means of transportation.
Maintain a Safe Distance from Golfers
A golf ball hit at full swing can reach a velocity of 211 mph. That’s enough to damage your golf cart, and more than enough to cause injury to either you or your passenger. For that reason, always maintain a safe distance from other players when you are driving around in your golf cart. This is also where the importance of staying within the marked path comes in.
Be Alert at All Times
Being aware of your surroundings and being alert is crucial if you are to stay safe when driving your golf cart. As you would when driving a real car, always look straight ahead when your golf cart is moving. At the same time, watch out for balls flying from different directions. Getting hit in the head with a golf ball can result in serious injury, so make sure you are always alert, staying behind the players and watching out for shots that might ricochet and fly your direction.
Drive Slowly On Slopes
Due to the way they are designed, golf carts are more susceptible to rolls than any other vehicle. This is especially true when they are driven through hills and slopes. According to studies, the slopes in cart paths are the most dangerous areas where golf carts usually skid, flip, and roll over, resulting to serious injuries, and sometimes, casualties. For this reason, always drive slowly when passing through hills and slopes, and see to it that your foot is ready to step on the brake anytime.
Observe Road Rules
There are instances that you are required to cross a main road to get to another part of the course. In such a case, it is important that you wait for the road to clear before crossing. A golf cart may have a maximum speed of 11 mph, but that is enough to eject someone who is not wearing a seat belt. Having said that, always make sure you are buckled up, whether or not you need to cross a main road.
Inspect Your Golf Cart before Driving
This is pure common sense. Most of you surely inspect your car before driving it at the beginning of the day, so it only makes sense that you do the same with your golf cart. Whether you bought your cart brand new or second hand, make sure you inspect the following before going out for a drive:
- Brakes – Make sure brakes are operational. Apply brake fluid if necessary.
- Battery – Batteries should be checked for fluid leaks. Check for wet spots under the unit.
- Tires – Check the condition of the tires and make sure they are properly inflated. Tires that are worn out should be replaced immediately.
If your golf cart has recently been checked by a mechanic and has been place under “In Need of Maintenance/Repair” status, it should not be driven until it has received necessary attention.
Walk Whenever You Can
One of the things that make golf carts an attractive option is that they make every round of golf more comfortable and convenient. Why walk under the heat of the sun when you can drive your cart and reach the next hole a lot faster? However, if there is one surefire way to avoid golf cart-related accidents and injuries, it’s by walking. Walking is not only safe, but provides an opportunity for you to exercise and stay healthy as well.
Golf carts are valuable vehicles and provide a way for you to play your favorite sport more conveniently and more comfortably. To ensure your safety when driving such a vehicle, however, see to it that you observe proper golf cart etiquette at all times.
About the Author: Eric writes for Golf Carts Sydney, a one stop shop for all things that have to do with golf carts and other industrial and commercial vehicles in Australia.
If you have a golf related product or service and would like to write a guest post, please contact us here.