Golf Cart Nation in Danger

About two years ago I wrote a long rant about the stupid policy by General Motors to license golf-carts for zero-emissions vehicle compliance. They even had the gall to try and lobby for speed/safety limits on the golf-carts, while claiming them to be part of the regular vehicle fleet. Either they are equivalent or they are not, right?

Anyway, the AP posted today some revealing safety numbers related to the rapidly expanding golf-cart nation:

The research found that over a four-year period, nearly 50,000 people were hurt in accidents involving golf carts.

One of the studies, by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said about 1,000 Americans are hurt on golf carts every month. Males aged 10 to 19 and people over 80 had the highest injury rates.

No surprise there. I think those are the same high-risk groups as with (dare I say it) regular vehicles.

A separate study by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, said annual injury rates for golf carts increased 130 percent over 16 years ending in 2006. The report said falling or jumping out of carts accounted for the largest number of injuries, 38 percent.

“Part of it is there are more people using them. Part of it is they are using them in more places,” said Tracy J. Mehan of the injury research center, noting many carts can reach speeds of 25 mph.

25 mph! Who are they kidding? If you can not go faster than 25 mph, you should not qualify as a fleet vehicle. You certainly can not drive on the Eisenhower interstate system, and are probably a hazard on any road including deserted county roads. A bicycle can probably average a higher overall speed than a golf-cart and a horse most certainly can, especially in rough terrain where falling and jumping are most likely. My point is that speed is not new, nor is it the only factor in safety issues:

“A lot of people perceive golf carts as little more than toys, but our findings suggest they can be quite dangerous, especially when used on public roads,” he said in a statement.

McGwin recommends driver education and safety standards for golf carts, which are largely unregulated. He also called for the use of helmets and seat belts and better golf course design to reduce steep hills, sharp curves and other hazards.

Exactly. GM and the American President did a fine job betting their farms on a vehicle that represents little more than a giant loophole in good sense. Now regulation will have to step in and beat some sense into the American companies that make these things. In the meantime, car manufacturers overseas (who did not attempt to pretend a golf cart would be a suitable vehicle) threaten to steam past GM with full-size vehicles that can meet future safety and emission requirements.

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