Golf carts are a common sight in vacation communities, neighborhoods, campuses, farms and other open spaces. Because people tend to think of them as slow-moving vehicles, parents may not realize they need to be aware of potential safety issues when children are on golf carts.
The American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to put the safety of their children first when children ride on golf carts and allow only licensed drivers behind the wheel.
Injury rates from golf carts are more than two times higher in children than adults or senior citizens, according to recent studies.
Between 2007 and 2017, golf cart injuries were the reason for more than 56,000 emergency department visits by children. Common injuries included cuts, strained muscles, broken bones and traumatic brain injuries, including concussions. These injuries occurred when children fell out or jumped off, got hit by or were in the golf cart when it tipped over.
Children are smaller and have a higher center of gravity than adults. They may not be able to reach the floor of a golf cart and can more easily lose their balance when the vehicle is moving.
Lois K. Lee, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, a pediatric emergency medicine physician, advises, “Like any motorized vehicle, parents need to ensure children are being transported safely when children are riding in golf carts. This means using the available restraints properly and instructing children on when and how to get on and off a cart.”
When children ride in a golf cart, parents can keep these safety tips in mind:
- Drivers should allow enough time and distance to slow down. Many golf carts have brakes only on the rear wheels, so they can be unstable during a sudden stop.
- The seat belt may not prevent riders from falling out or lurching forward. Many golf carts have seat belts that go only across the lap or hips.
Rules for these vehicles depend on their maximum speed and where you live. Golf carts do not have to follow the same safety rules as other vehicles if their top speed is less than 20 mph.
If their top speed is over 20 mph but under 25 mph, they are called “low-speed vehicles.” They must follow rules set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Low-speed vehicles must have headlamps, stop lamps, turn signal lamps, tail lamps, reflex reflectors, parking brakes, rearview mirrors, windshields, seat belts and a vehicle identification number.
Check with your local municipality and state for rules or laws related to golf carts and low-speed vehicles.