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Golf Card Crashes with Fatalities and the use of Seat Belts

Posted by Tim Babiarz on April 22, 2014 at 3:18pm

Another Golf Cart Ejection Fatality! There have now been AT LEAST THIRTEEN GOLF CART RELATED FATALITIES in The Villages in the last six years. In the last two years, in addition to three fatalities there were TWENTY-TWO golf cart occupants who were EJECTED from their golf cart and ONE who fell out of a golf cart that had to be ‘trauma alerted’ to Shands, Ocala Regional or Orlando Regional Trauma Centers because of the severity of their injuries. NONE WERE WEARING A SEAT BELT. (We have no knowledge as to whether any of these life-threatening injuries resulted in an eventual fatality.) The latest fatal accident occurred on Tuesday, February 25th – late evening – a 76 year old male was ejected from his cart when he hit a curb. Unfortunately, the driver died on March 9th as a result of his injuries. Hopefully, now that the Daily Sun and the Villages Golf Car Store have finally come out suggesting consideration of the use of seat belts in golf carts when not on the golf course, residents should take heed!!! In the February 24th edition of the Daily Sun, a front page article was on golf cart safety features and the first one it discussed was the use of seat belts in golf carts. It reiterated what the POA has been saying for two years – “…District Public Safety responded to 12 (now 13) fatalities attributed to non-rollover ejections during the last four (it’s actually six) years, department records indicated.” The VHA, which heretofore did not advocate golf cart seat belts in their monthly golf cart safety classes and film, recently advised in a statement by President Gottschalk at the VHA membership meeting that, “The annual membership meeting focused on golf cart safety in part because of the number of accidents in the past year.” It had a representative from the Villages Golf Car Store present who provided a display on safety equipment, emphasizing lights to make carts more visible, and seat belts to keep people secure during sudden stops or quick turns. Hopefully the VHA will revise and add a positive statement on seat belt usage in their ‘Golf Cart Safety Brochure’, as well as encourage the use of seat belts in their Golf Cart Safety class. Below is an article which we published in the July, 2012, Bulletin which explains why wearing a seat belt on Villages roads is not the same as wearing one on a golf course where the use of a seat belt is not recommended. GOLF CART TRAVEL…ARE YOU SAFER IN A SEAT BELT? In 1997, aware that golf carts increasingly were migrating from golf courses onto city streets, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration created a new category called Low Speed Vehicle to regulate safety. The vehicles are capable of reaching 20 to 25 mph, and include what the safety administration calls personal neighborhood vehicles, neighborhood electric vehicles, and golf cars. All are required to have seat belts and other safety devices. However, golf carts that go slower than 20 mph -- which are far less expensive and the kind most often used on Village streets -- are not regulated, unless state or local governments set rules. Golf carts (when used on golf courses) are typically not equipped with seatbelts because of their need to allow passengers to enter and exit the vehicle frequently with ease. Therefore, the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) golf cart safety standard, Z130.1, does not require seatbelts for golf carts. As a result, it became necessary to equip golf carts with passive restraints to try and protect un-belted passengers from ejection. (A look at the statistics here in The Villages indicates that this ‘fix’ is not sufficient.) In place of seat-belts, golf cart standards require readily accessible handholds and body restraints that prevent the occupants from sliding to the outside of the vehicle. In a 1998 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report, it stated that, discussions with various manufacturers and vendors produced an essentially unanimous viewpoint on the subject of safety restraints on a golf cart. They are viewed as a potentially dangerous accessory and a definite legal/litigation liability for the low speeds and uneven terrain that is a golf cart’s typical OPERATING ENVIRONMENT. The perception is that it is generally preferable to step from or be thrown from a golf cart that is starting to ROLL OVER than to be strapped to the vehicle. The sculpted or hilly terrain of many golf courses, results in a fairly high propensity for tipping and rolling, which can occur at very low speeds. This hazard is aggravated at golf courses that incorporate hilly terrain with steep, narrow golf cart paths and sharp turns. However, a review of golf cart crashes in The Villages confirms safety experts previous statements which indicate rollovers are most common on hilly golf courses, not on streets, as most of those involve a cart turning on its side, not upside down.

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