Golf carts are fun little buggers. And they're not just for fairways anymore: as Americans look for cleaner, greener ways to get around, golf carts are showing up on residential streets. But be careful. These carts require more caution than you may think.
According to new research, golf-cart injuries have soared higher than a Tiger Woods tee shot. The Center for Injury Research and Policy in Columbus, Ohio, reported that the number of cart-related trips to the emergency room jumped from an estimated 5,772 in 1990 to 13,411 in 2006, a 132% increase. The highest injury rates were among males ages 10 to 19 and those over 70, according to a study by the University of Alabama at Birmingham. And these aren't scratches from falling into a sand trap. The wounds include concussions, fractures, even hemorrhages.
Why the spike? In retirement communities and suburban culs-de-sac, battery-powered carts are a cheap, energy-efficient way to move around the neighborhood. And in the street, drivers are more likely to thump against the pavement or, worse, collide with a car; more than half the incidents tallied in these studies took place off the golf course. Also, carts are getting faster--some go 25 m.p.h. (40 km/h)--but still often lack basic protections like seat belts or side rails.
The studies' authors offer sensible recommendations, like mandating a minimum driving age of 16, braking slowly and wearing a helmet while riding (which probably won't fly at the country club). Most important, drivers shouldn't be casual. Golf may be a wimpy game--but those carts are dangerously strong.