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Yes, it is a significant issue. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that there are over 10,000 golf cart related injuries every year that require emergency room treatment. Similarly, The American Journal of Preventive Medicine estimated there were 13,411 golf cart related injuries in 2006. The most significant injuries involve head trauma, fracture(s) and/or golf cart crash injuries arising out of occupant ejection and/or rollover incidents.
It is important to point out that golf carts and LSVs are not designed for crashworthiness with other vehicles. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's news release in May 20, 2010, points out that LSVs are essentially souped up golf carts that were envisioned as a low cost, eco-friendly way to tool around gated communities in the Sun Belt where they would have little interaction with larger vehicles.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 1998 established safety standards for LSVs to be used on "short trips for shopping, social, and recreational purposes primarily within retirement or other planned communities with golf courses." LSVs are designed to go at least 20 mph but no faster that 25 mph. NHTSA requires these components: headlights, taillights, stoplights, front and rear turn signals, reflectors, parking brakes, rearview mirrors, windshields, safety belts, and vehicle identification numbers. Significantly, NHTSA does not require LSVs to have airbags, or other safety features beyond seatbelts since they are intended for low risk driving.
In vehicle crashworthiness safety tests, two GEM e2 electric vehicles were tested and showed damage to vehicle test dummies indicating serious or fatal injury for occupants. The first was a side impact test in which a pickup or SUV crashes into the nonmoving GEM car at 31 mph. The second test involved a Smart Car crashing into a stationary GEM at 31 mph. David Zuby, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's chief research officer commented that "GEM and other LSVs weren't designed to protect people in a crash with a micro car like the Smart Fortwo, let alone larger cars, SUVs, and pickups in everyday traffic." 1 Another author has acknowledged this danger - "the low relative vehicular weight of the LSV as compared to the typical automobile and the lack of occupant protection make collisions between the two especially dangerous for the occupants of the LSV."2
1. Institute for Highway Safety News Release "Low Speed Vehicles and Minitrucks Shouldn't Share Busy Public Road with Regular Traffic." May 20, 2010.
2. Golf Cart or Low Speed Vehicle? April, 2007 by Richard Newsome and P. Alexander Gillen
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