Nothing is more frightening to a jogger or bike rider than seeing a golf cart weaving erratically toward you, especially when a child is behind the wheel. Actually, it’s nerve-racking even if you are in a car, and you realize that the cart driver is inexperienced and probably unaware of how serious a collision could be.
As we enter the summer months when grandchildren will be visiting The Villages and other golf cart communities, let us all remember that golf carts are not toys. State law requires that drivers must be at least 14 and know the rules of the road.
That’s not to say that all careless golf cart driving is committed by underage drivers. Every day I see cart drivers of all ages ignoring traffic rules and taking unbelievable risks in traffic. The most frequent violation, says Sumter County Sheriff Deputy Dick Bennett, is rolling through stop signs.
“Everyone sees the sign, but they just don’t stop,” Bennett said at a recent golf cart safety seminar sponsored by The Villages Homeowners Association. “The number-one excuse is that they are late for something.”
Another frequent violation includes not using turn signals. To be safe, says Bennett, use hand signals in addition to your signal lights, which are often covered by golf towels hanging from clubs or by rain enclosures.
Driving golf carts is a privilege in Florida, not a right. And that privilege could be lost if a community acquires a poor safety record. Luckily, The Villages and surrounding communities have excellent safety records thus far, but we must continue to use caution and be diligent about observing traffic rules.
Remember when we had buffalo in The Villages? They were taken away because some people couldn’t use good sense or follow the “no feeding” rules. I, for one, would hate to lose my golf cart privileges because other people were careless.
Traffic laws apply to golf carts just as they do to automobiles, and citations can be given to golf cart operators. Underage drivers who are pulled over will find points against them when they eventually apply for driver licenses in their home states.
Even worse, though, is a golf cart accident where someone is seriously hurt or killed—and those happen more often than we want to admit. According to a study published last year in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, an estimated 148,000 golf cart-related injuries occurred nationwide between 1990 and 2006, ranging from an estimated 5,770 cases in 1990 to approximately 13,411 cases in 2006. Nearly one-third of those injured were people under the age of 16. Another study by the Center for Injury Sciences at the University of Alabama Birmingham found that most golf cart injuries involved males 10 to 19 years old.
Golf cart drivers of all ages need to drive defensively, use caution, and obey traffic rules. And if you are tempted to hand over your golf cart keys to your bored underage grandchildren, don’t. Just tell them about the good ol’ days when the buffalo roamed.
Want to Know More?
Also, the Villages Homeowners Association offers a free golf cart safety clinic on the third Wednesday of each month at The Savannah Center. For information, contact Joy Tolan at (352) 750-5368.