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Golf Cart Injuries: They can be prevented

Posted Sep 18 2010 12:00am
Golf Cart Injuries

by JP Saleeby, MD
MPH Emergency Medicine

A report conducted by physicians at the University of Alabama (UAB) focusing on injuries sustained on golf carts was published in the Journal of Trauma-Injury Infection & Critical Care in mid-2008.  The report studied the number of injuries occurring in golf cart accidents.  The numbers are surprising.  During a period between 2002 and 2005 there were reported some 48,000 golf cart accidents nationwide, that amounts to 1,000 accidents a month.  With the rise of golf carts use in America as a low cost, fun mode of transportation (specially with adolescents and teenagers) this has accounted for the rising number and projected higher numbers of future injuries and deaths. 

Half of the injuries that occur, happen off the golf course, on private roads, public property and public road systems.  Golf carts are not designed for road use and do not come with many safety features found on roadworthy vehicles.  Head injuries and fractures make up the greatest number of injuries as passengers and drivers are ejected from the vehicles or are apart of rollovers.  Highest rate of injuries occurred in boys 10- to 19-years of age and in those over 80 years old.  While there is little federal regulation and in most states there are no requirements or licenses for operators, it is no wonder there are such a high number of injuries and fatalities.  It makes common sense to guard against some basic misuse of golf carts. 

Children are not mature enough or experienced drivers to handle golf carts on public roads and should not be left to operate them without adult supervision.  Just today I grew concerned when a group of children (no older than 14 years of age) were clambering over a stalled golf cart.  One child was trying to push the golf cart up a hill and was in a very precarious position to have the heavy cart roll over her.  Some years ago a physician acquaintance of mine lost his adult daughter in a golf cart accident.  She was in the drivers seat on a golf course, with her 3-year old child in her lap.  As they were motoring along, the child grabbed the steering where and jerked it, causing the cart to roll over.  The woman was thrown from the golf cart, and landed on her neck.  She sustained a fatal cervical fracture and died moments later. 

On September 11th, 2010 three teenagers in Alabama suffered a golf cart accident.  The two girls and one boy were 15-years old and upon arrival to the trauma center the boy was listed as critical, the girls as serious but stable.  In March of this year another 15-year old boy was killed in the same community after falling off a golf cart.  Parents and guardians should keep children using golf carts off public roads and property, never let them drive unattended anywhere and keep the speeds limited (governored) to 15 miles or less.  Children under the age of 13 should probably refrain from driving golf carts.

References
Journal of Trauma-Injury Infection & Critical Care:
June 2008 - Volume 64 - Issue 6 - pp 1562-1566
 
The Birmingham News (9/2010) 
 
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