Those little vehicles that buzz around golf courses as well as parks, sports fields and public recreational areas might be a cost-saving alternative to larger vehicles, but a pair of studies released this week suggests they do have their risks. The numbers of injuries have been increasing as more people rely on golf carts for transportation off golf courses. While there were about 5,772 injuries in 1990, the number more than doubled to 13,411 in 2006. Over the period studied, the researchers counted injuries in almost 150,000 people ages 2 months to 96 years.
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. About half of the injuries occur on golf courses or in other sports venues, such as football stadiums. The rest are typically on streets or residential property.
Part of the problem is that the carts are faster than they used to be. But they are also being used in ways they were not necessarily intended for and are carrying people — like children — they should not, the study said.
Many of the injuries were caused by falls, which can occur at speeds as low as 11 miles per hour when the cart turns, the study said. And newer carts can hit 25 m.p.h. They often lack safety equipment, the majority of the carts in use do not have seat belts. Furthermore, the lack of front brakes makes the vehicles prone to fishtail, the study said.
The most frequent accidents result in injury when passengers fall out or when riders are hurt when the carts tip over.