Golf carts look tame, but you may be in for a wild ride

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They seem like an easy way to scoot around the neighborhood or zip over to the beach, but golf carts are not as innocent as they seem. Without proper supervision and a good understanding of the laws, they can turn into a rough ride for both the passenger and owner. Simply put, they are deceptively dangerous. Despite this, people often don't think before carting off with an infant in their lap or children standing on the rear, or heading out with an alcoholic beverage in hand or no lights, or before handing over the keys to underage boys and girls. Small wonder that with the rise in the use of golf carts as alternate transportation, and at times a lax attitude, there's been a marked increase in accidents. There are now an estimated 15,000 golf cart related accidents requiring emergency room treatment in the U.S. each year, with the majority of injuries due to braking, cart rollover, or passenger ejection. Golf cart enthusiasts should take heed - these accidents can result in serious injury or even death, and they can cause serious liability issues for the owner. First, golf carts were designed for golf. They are recreational vehicles to be driven at a slow speed, away from traffic, along grassy paths. With poor brake assembly, no seatbelts, and lack of other safety features, they do not include the normal crash protection an automobile employs. The open air design makes it very easy for a passenger to fall out, as was the case recently when a young child tragically lost her life from such a fall. Some vehicles are being up-fitted these days to make them "road legal," but those often seen cruising through the neighborhood are not typically so equipped. And most have not been maintained in the way people would normally attend to an automobile. According to S.C. law, if a golf cart is to be driven on the road (making it a golf car or Low-Speed Vehicle), it must be equipped with the following and can't be driven over 25-35 mph.

  • Lights for night driving
  • Seat belts for safety
  • Directional signals
  • Working horn
  • Registered LSV license plates
  • Covered by insurance and a DMV sticker visible

Without the above, the vehicle is considered a golf cart and can only be used within a neighborhood (or up to four miles from the entrance), cannot be driven at night, and can only have a top speed of 15-20 mph. Like golf cars, golf carts must be insured and driven by a licensed driver over the age of 16, and the same drinking and driving rules apply as with motor vehicles. Whether a golf car or a recreational golf cart, passengers and owners should use caution. No one wants an afternoon joy ride to turn into an easily avoidable accident.

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