||Last Updated: Oct 10, 2012 - 9:16:36 AM
Since the late 1990‘s, golf carts and other Low Speed Vehicles (LSVs), with top speeds of 25 mph have gained great popularity across the nation (currently 46 states have sanctioned these vehicles to travel commercial roads). The slower speeds and open construction perfectly complement the more relaxed lifestyle typical of tropical and subtropical climates. Daniel Island, with its championship golf-course, provides the perfect excuse to own a golf cart. As a result, many residents who can’t tell a nine-iron from a putter can be seen driving golf carts all over town - running errands up and down Seven Farms Drive, picking up their kids at school, or simply enjoying a breeze-filled early evening drive around Smythe Park. These electric, battery-powered golf carts and LSVs appear to be the perfect solution for polluted, stress-filled roads.
But are these vehicles really the panacea we’d like them to be?
Back in 1998, when the National Highway Traffic Safety Association acknowledged the increased use of golf carts for purposes other than toting golf bags around the fairways, the agency established a limited set of safety standards intended for vehicles used “to make short trips for shopping, social, and recreational purposes, primarily within retirement or other planned communities with golf courses.”
A new vehicle soon appeared, modeled after environmentally-friendly golf carts that offered more road-efficient top speeds of 25 mph. Classified as “Low Speed Vehicles”, these new, faster darlings of the road fell into the category of “motor vehicle”, and were required, under federal law, to have the same documentation and equipment features required for autos: seatbelts, headlamps, tail lamps, signal lights, windshields, registrations, titles, VIN numbers and license plates (usually starting with the letters LV...). And, of course, the operator of any LSV (as with golf carts) could be no younger than 16 years of age and had to possess a valid driver’s license.
Golf carts, however, were not originally designed with seatbelts in mind because of their need to allow passengers to enter and exit the vehicle frequently on the golf course. As a result, they do not require seatbelts, according to the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) golf car safety standard, Z130.1.
Since golf carts achieve only a top maximum speed of 20 mph, they do not fall into the motor vehicle category and do not require the same federally mandated safety equipment and documentation; state and local laws govern the safety requirements on these vehicles. Currently, the only requirements for golf cart drivers is that they must be no less than 16 years old and must possess a valid SC driver’s license and a DVM-issued permit available for $5.
But if law enforcement officials and health and safety professionals could have their way, laws for LSVs, and especially golf carts, would be far stricter than they are today.
Take this local example.
One busy week-day afternoon, shortly before Labor Day weekend, Officer Franco Pigoni, of the City of Charleston Police Team 5, was patrolling Seven Farms Drive, near the intersection of River Landing Drive, when he suddenly noticed a small dog, possibly a puppy, roll out of a golf cart into the street right in front of oncoming traffic. An ardent animal lover, Officer Pigoni leaped into action, stopped traffic, and, just in the nick of time, prevented a large SUV, barreling down the road, from hitting the startled but, happily, unhurt animal.
Pigoni explained, “The driver didn’t even realize that the dog had fallen out of the golf cart until her young passengers began screaming that the animal was behind them on the road.” In reaction, the driver simply stopped the cart and walked back several yards to retrieve her dog, barely acknowledging the police officer who had stopped traffic to save her dog’s life. When Pigoni approached the driver in order to examine her license (a normal police procedure in any vehicular incident), he recalls that she became very defensive.
“Not only did the driver appear to lack concern about the safety of her passengers and the dog, she also expressed a great deal of impatience, obviously in a hurry to get where she was going.”
Pigoni added that the driver was sharing the front seat with two preschool-aged children with a young adult seated in the back.
“I didn’t ticket the driver,” reflected Pigoni, “I just made it a point to remind her about proper safety precautions when driving a golf cart, especially with very young children and animals on board.”
His advice, it seems, fell on deaf ears. Pigoni noted that, about half an hour later he saw the same driver, still in her cart with her young passengers, pulling out of the Publix parking lot, fully focused on typing a cell phone text message.
The driver of the golf cart is very fortunate. Not just because she didn’t receive a citation. She was lucky because neither the children nor the animal in the vehicle were hurt. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), there are approximately 15,000 golf car-related injuries requiring emergency room treatment in the US each year. Based on CPSC statistics, roughly 40% of golf car accidents involve a person falling out of the car, and many of these accidents involve young children.
In 2010, two children made headlines when they died from golf cart-related injuries. A Bishop England student, Adela Cook, vacationing in the Bahamas, died when she was thrown from a golf cart. A six year old Florida child, Gabriella Wiegert, was thrown from a cart and died from severe head injuries. Her father, Shannon Wiegert, began an appeal for special golf cart safety laws for children, including seatbelts and helmets. (http://www.petition2congress.com/3184/).
City of Charleston Police Senior Officer Pierce White, also of Team 5, is concerned about the dangerous situations that he often witnesses with children on golf carts.
“I see young teens, no older than 14, driving golf carts up and down the roads of Daniel Island; often, the parents don’t realize that their child has taken the cart,” said White. “Just the other day,” he added, “a school-aged child, no older than 8, was operating a golf cart, driving down Seven Farms Drive, with a parent passively sitting next to him in the passenger seat.”
White said, “Many parents have little idea how hazardous these situations can be. Golf carts and LSVs are motor vehicles, not toys, and they have the potential to be very dangerous if you don’t follow the law.”
White added, “My department is dedicated to protecting the safety of the residents of Daniel Island. We do that by making sure that everyone follows the laws on the road, whether they’re driving a car, a golf cart or even a bicycle. If everyone worked together to follow the rules of the road, we’d all have a much safer community.”
One of the biggest golf cart-related safety issue concerns is seat belts. Technology Associates, a forensic engineering firm in Connecticut points out that passenger ejection is a primary cause of accidents that lead to serious injuries, especially of the head and neck. Such accidents occur when a golf cart (or any LSV), traveling near its maximum speed, is turned sharply to the left and centrifugal acceleration forces the passenger to his or her right. Without proper restraints, the passenger, especially a child, is likely to fall out of the cart.
Kristopher Seluga, an engineer at Technology Associates, noted: “Shopping carts have seat belts, Radio Flyer wagons have seat belts. Why don’t golf carts?” Seluga maintains that, until golf cart companies improve designs to accommodate stronger, more secure seat belt systems, golf cart owners should consider retro-fitting their vehicles with seat belts (and other safety features like headlights, taillights, directional signals, rear view mirrors and a roll-over bar).
A parent of elementary school-aged children himself, Seluga cautions adults to think twice before putting a child in a golf cart, especially one younger than six years old. “Put it this way,” he offered, “if you’re comfortable putting your child on the back of a motorcycle, then by all means, bring him along in the golf cart.”
Thankfully, the Daniel Island community has not experienced any serious golf cart-related accidents, yet. Nevertheless, East Cooper Hospital’s Emergency Room nurse, Bethany Clawson, reminds adults to try not to take children in the carts, especially those under 6, unless it is absolutely necessary. Also, she advises, do make sure that there is a safety strap for the child and that he/she is sitting between two adults for additional safety. “Of course”, cautions Clawson, “remember not to drink alcohol before or while you drive the cart.”
Consideration of pet safety in golf carts and LSVs is critical as well. Daniel Island Animal Hospital’s Dr. Lynne Flood recommends that pets in any vehicle be properly restrained and constantly supervised, for the pet’s safety as well as the people in the vehicle. The American Veterinary Medical Association suggests that before you put your pet in the vehicle, ask yourself if you really need to take him with you – and if the answer is “no”, leave your pet safely at home.
For more information on pet safety in vehicles and pet restraint devices see https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/pets-in-vehicles.aspx and http://www.pawstoclick.com/
With safety considerations in mind, is an LSV safer than a golf cart? Will Sneed, General Manager of Garrett’s Golf Carts of Charleston, says that the company sells three times as many golf carts as LSVs. “Basically, golf carts are much cheaper,” he says. While a golf cart tends to run about $3,000 - $4,000, fully equipped LSVs can run well over $7,000. It’s much more prudent to retrofit your golf cart with the same features an LSV has, all for about $650. But, as Sneed points out, the additional safety features on LSVs do not make the vehicle that much safer. “It’s really a question of driver responsibility,” he points out.
Daniel Island resident Cheryl Fletcher agrees about the importance of driver responsibility. “There are just so many distractions on the road these days,” she points out, “it’s especially important to be aware of drivers in cars who are paying more attention to their cell phones than the road in front of them; my family and I use the cart all the time on the island, but it is a bit scary to think about a possible collision with a car. I try to drive my cart on the side of the road, as much as possible, to let cars pass. I view riding a golf cart like riding a bicycle; while they’re lots of fun, I feel much more vulnerable on the roads. You just have to be very careful.”
New Law expands golf cart and LSV range to 4 miles from home
On October 1, golf carts and other Low Speed Vehicles (LSVs) can travel up to four miles, rather than the current radius of two miles, from a registered residence. The amendment was sponsored by South Carolina state representative Bill Herbkersman of Bluffton, and ratified by Governor Nikki Haley last May. Herbkersman’s motivation for the bill? To give greater mobility to the residents of Sun City Hilton Head, in his jurisdiction. Sun City Hilton Head is an adult community where residents depend on golf carts to get around and have access to restaurants and shopping just outside the gates; many of the residents live more than two miles from the gates of the community, and, up till now, have felt very frustrated. Says Herbkersman, “the new law helps residents enjoy the use of golf carts and extends owners’ insurance policies. In short, golf carts are a much safer way for them to get around than regular auto vehicles.”
IMPORTANT GUIDELINES TO KEEP IN MIND
-Drive at a reasonable speed, consider the weather
-Brake slowly, especially on downhill (driveway) slopes
-Avoid sharp turns at high speeds.
-Passengers should put both feet firmly on the golf
cart's floor,keeping their arms and legs inside the
cart at all times.
-Do not let kids younger than 6 ride in golf carts.
-Do not allow children younger than 16 years old
to drive golf carts.
-Never, ever drink alcohol while driving a golf cart.
GOLF CART AND LOW SPEED VEHICLE (LSV) SAFETY QUIZ
True or False
While you do require a license to drive an LSV, you don’t require one to drive a golf cart.
You are required by law to wear a seatbelt on golf carts and LSVs.
LSVs require more safety features than golf carts, such as headlamps, taillights, sideview mirrors, windshields.
You can drive your golf cart or LSV on any road with speed limits 45 mph or greater.
You can drive your LSV and golf cart for very short distances on a major highway such as 526 or 17.
It is illegal to drive home-made LSVs on the road.
Your golf cart is the perfect vehicle to use to get to nighttime Hootie concert at the Family Circle Tennis Center.
1. False. A driver’s license is required to operate both golf carts and LSVs. 2. False. You are not required to wear a seat belt in a golf cart. 3. True 4. False. 5. False 6. True. 7. False
Golf Cart and LSV
Rules and Regulations
Golf Cart Rules and Regulations
-Driver must carry legal South Caro
lina DMV issued driver’s license
and proof of insurance.
-Vehicle requires blue permit sticker
adhered to the front left side of the
cart (available for $5 upon presenta
tion of valid driver’s license at DMV).
(Golf cart owners holding golf cart
permits on or before October 1,
2012, will have until September 30,
2015, to obtain a replacement per
mit.) Must be at least 16 years of
age with valid SC license to operate.
-May drive during daylight hours only.
-May drive on secondary highways/
roads with maximum speed limits
of 35 mph.
-May not travel at speeds greater
than 20 mph.
-May drive up to 4 miles from regis
LSV Rules and Regulations
-Driver must carry legal South Caro
lina DMV-issued driver’s license,
registration, title, manufacturer’s
certificate of compliance, license
plate and VIN number.
-A street-legal LSV must have: shat
ter proof glass, 4 DOT approved
tires, over the shoulder seat belts,
headlamp, front and rear turn
signals, tail lamp, stop lamp, reflex
reflectors, rear view and sideview
mirrors, parking brake and wind
shield seat belts.
-Must be at least 16 years of age
with valid SC license to operate.
-May drive after dark.
-May drive on secondary highways/
roads with maximum speed limits of
-May not travel at speeds greater
than 25 mph.
-May drive up to 4 miles away from