Anyone visiting or living in The Villages knows that we have a love/hate relationship with our golf carts. They’re cheap, easy to use, and convenient for getting around town. At the same time, crashes, DUIs, and injuries are sadly common.
Don’t get us wrong, we love our golf carts and the sense of community they create, but we need to ask a difficult question: Do golf carts belong on the road?
Golf carts were created in the 1930s, but gained popularity in the 50s. They were designed to allow people with mobility impairments to play golf and get around the course.
Over time, they became a cheaper alternative to buying a full-sized car. The industry exploded when hundreds of states and cities legalized golf carts in urban centers. In 2020, golf carts are a billion-dollar industry that’s expected to grow on pace with the retiring baby boomers.
Since permitting golf carts on public streets and roadways, the number of golf cart crashes and DUIs has exploded. At present, there are more than 15,000 golf cart crashes per year and that number is expected to dramatically increase, year over year, for at least the next ten years.
In The Villages
Golf carts are a point of culture in The Villages. We have clubs dedicated to them, we have parades for them, we have dedicated people who transform their carts into works of art.
At the same time, we have crashes, serious injuries, and a startlingly high rate of DUIs. Nearly every week in The Villages, at least one person is charged with a DUI while operating a golf cart. This not only endangers the golf cart driver but pedestrians, cyclists, and those driving traditional vehicles.
We need to address the uncomfortable truth. Many of these crashes would not occur if the driver was in a traditional motor vehicle or if the golf carts were relegated to golf cart paths. Having golf carts share the road with motor vehicles is a recipe for disaster.
As we’ve explained before, golf carts are fundamentally unsafe when used on city streets. They’re not designed to go faster than 12-15 miles per hour. They struggle to make right angles at intersections and often tip over in a U-turn.
The lack of seatbelts provides no protection against a crash and the seat-side handholds often throw passengers from the vehicle and into the road.
There’s no quick cure for this. Golf carts may be permitted to drive on public roads, but they are not designed for that purpose. Even if someone is an excellent golf cart driver, they are still at risk of being struck by traditional motor vehicles and from rolling over. Because golf cart safety features are essentially non-existent, even a 15-MPH tap from an SUV will total the golf cart and inflict serious injury on its passengers.
Golf carts aren’t meant to keep up with 35-45 mile per hour speed limits. When drivers try to push their physical limits, the vehicle’s center of gravity is working against them. If we are committed to reducing golf cart crashes in The Villages and beyond, we need to do two things: Develop more golf cart paths and increase DUI checkpoints on those paths.
Golf Cart Paths
As previously discussed, golf carts aren’t designed to handle sharp turns. That’s why we need to develop more paths specifically for golf carts. If these paths are designed with the golf cart’s physical limitations in mind, accidents are much less likely to occur.
If properly designing, golf cart drivers wouldn’t feel the pressure to keep up with the speed of a sedan, nor would they be forced into making unsafe turns. With fewer golf carts on public roadways, there would also be fewer pedestrian accidents and fewer cases of carts being struck by larger vehicles.
Creating golf cart paths would only solve half the problem. Developing real change in The Villages and other golf cart communities requires stricter DUI enforcement, and educating repeat DUI offenders.
More checkpoints along golf cart paths would help catch drunk golf cart drivers before they can hurt themselves or others. As we discussed previously, some communities have already developed more extensive golf cart paths and DUI checkpoints and, as a result, have seen a reduction in golf cart-related injuries.
We love the sense of community golf carts create, but we need to consider our own safety and the safety of others before claiming that bad driving is the only cause of these terrible wrecks.
If you or someone you love suffered severe injuries in a golf cart accident, you might have a case. If you’d like to schedule a free case consultation with an experienced The Villages personal injury attorney from Ayres, Cluster, Collins & Banks, P.A. to evaluate your case, please call (352) 329-8668 or send us an email.