Golf is a relaxing way to spend some time outdoors in Maryland, and many players rely upon golf carts to transport themselves and their gear through to the 18th Hole. There are even some communities where residents use the motorized carts as their primary mode of getting around the local vicinity. However, despite the fact that they travel nowhere near the speed of a passenger car or truck, golf carts can also put operators and their passengers at risk of injury or even death, as in the case of a Huntingtown, MD man.
The Southern Maryland Newspapers Online reported that, on October 7, 2017, officials from the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office Patrol Bureau and Crash Reconstruction Team responded to a call involving a pedestrian accident around 9:30 p.m. On arrival at the scene near Route 4, they found the victim was deceased and was not actually a pedestrian. A preliminary investigation shows that the man was operating his golf cart along the roadway and attempted to turn into the intersection of Route 4 and Lower Marlboro Road. In doing so, he struck a curb and was ejected onto the road, where he was struck by three vehicles.
Additional details are expected pending the results of an autopsy and investigation of the three vehicles. However, officials believe that possible intoxication, poor lighting, and the man’s dark clothing, are all contributing factors. The story shows how golf carts can turn from an enjoyable mode of transportation into a nightmare quickly, so talk to an experienced Maryland personal injury attorney if you are hurt in an accident.
Statistics on Golf Cart Injuries
Figures derived from multiple sources, including a report from the National Institutes of Health via the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System database, show how common golf cart injuries are in the US:
- It is estimated that around 148,000 victims sustained golf cart-related injuries from the study time period of 1990-2006; however, these reports are based upon those who were treated in emergency departments, so the number could be even higher.
- While the statistics covered all victims ranging from two months to 96 years, injuries to children aged under 16 years old comprise 31.2% of all cases.
- Those patients who did seek treatment for golf cart injuries required hospitalization in 7.8% of the cases.
- The most common type of bodily harm was soft tissue damage, at 47.7% of the incidents.
- Falling from a golf cart was the most common cause of injury at 38.3%, while rollovers were a factor in an alarming 10% of accidents.
- As far as location of accidents, 70% were at sports facilities, including golf courses; however, 15% were on public property or streets and 14.5% occurred on a farm or residence.
Common Risks Associated with Golf Carts
Even though the electric-powered version only travels around 15 miles per hour maximum, golf carts are dangerous because they lack the safety features of other motorized vehicles. Carts typically lack seatbelts, turn indicators, brake lights, windshield wipers, and mirrors. Considering that many are used on the roadways, just as often as on the course, these deficiencies can put operators of golf carts at risk.
Though operating a golf cart while intoxicated can lead to a DUI, enforcement of drunk driving laws tends to be limited.
The causes of golf cart injuries and fatalities include:
- Sharp turns;
- Overcrowding beyond the stated passenger limit;
- Riding with arms or legs outside the cart;
- Operating the cart in wet, slippery conditions or upon uneven surfaces;
- Driver distractions, like using a cell phone, eating, or drinking;
- Intoxication, which is a serious concern because consuming alcoholic beverages is commonly associated with playing golf.
Tips for Safe Golf Cart Operation
Considering the risk factors for golf cart injuries, many of the safety tips for operating them are logical; others may not occur to you, but are equally important:
- Avoid distractions as you would while driving, which means staying off the phone, avoiding eating or drinking while operating, and not engaging in activities that take your attention away from operating the cart.
- Avoid driving recklessly or trying to race other carts.
- Assume all rules of the road apply, whether you are on a public roadway or not.
- Stay away from alcohol or drugs that might impair your capabilities.
- If you own your cart, install seatbelts and insist that passengers use them.
- Limit occupants to the number specified by the golf cart manufacturer.
- Know the limitations of the golf cart, as these vehicles do not turn or stop in the same way as a car.
- Avoid sharp turns that could cause a rollover.
- Use precaution when operating a golf cart in inclement weather, and reduce speed where necessary for safe operation.
- Do not allow others to ride in the storage compartment intended for golf bags or a rear platform.
- Operate the golf cart from a seated position, at the location intended for the driver. Avoid reaching over another person to drive.
The recent fatal golf cart incident in Maryland is proof that accidents can happen any time, while you are engaged in almost any activity. Proper safety measures can limit your risk of injury due to a golf cart mishap, but there are many factors beyond your control that can still lead to bodily harm. If you are injured, you may suffer the same losses as you would with other types of accidents, including medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages. Fortunately, Maryland law allows you to recover compensation if someone else’s conduct caused the incident. With an experienced, knowledgeable attorney on your side, you may be able to pursue the negligent party for damages and get the compensation you deserve.