Golf carts can be great fun if used safely and responsibly

October 27, 2023
A family rides in a golf cart on the beach
More than 6,500 people are injured in golf cart-related accidents every year. iStock

Mary Beth Vassy loved playing outside as a kid. She had a trampoline, rode horses, played sports. But one of her favorite things to do was drive her go-kart all over the place. So MUSC Health’s pediatric trauma injury prevention coordinator knows a thing or two about the dangers of motorized vehicles. 

Unfortunately, several recent deadly accidents involving Tri-county area residents and low-speed vehicles have brought their dangers – and what sort of safety precautions need to be taken while operating them – into the spotlight. And with more than 6,500 children getting injured every year from golf cart-related incidents, Vassy and her colleagues think it’s time everybody knows the rules about both of them.

First and foremost, she said, though the term “golf cart” is often broadly used, these are actually different from low-speed vehicles. LSVs are much safer for road travel, as they have seat belts, turn signals, headlights, mirrors, windshield wipers, a speedometer and horn. LSVs can be operated at all times of day, whereas golf carts can only be driven during daylight hours. Other than that though, the rules for operating both are basically the same: The driver must be 16 years or older with a valid driver’s license and can only travel on roads with posted speed limits of less than 35 mph. 

“So many people treat these large vehicles, that are thousands of pounds, like they’re toys,” she said. “I can't tell you how many times I’ve seen parents with kids on the golf cart, and they’re driving down the road with a beer in their hand.”

Just like with other motorized vehicles, drivers cannot be under the influence when operating an LSV or golf cart. In order to be safer, better drivers, Vassy wanted people to know some of the basic facts and statistics when it comes to injuries related to golf carts and LSVs: 

  • Most accidents result in injuries to the head, neck and face.
  • Jumping from or falling off accounted for nearly 40% of all injuries.
  • The majority of accidents occur while turning at too high a rate of speed.
  • Children are twice as likely to get injured as adults.

So slow down when you turn, be mindful of traffic around you and, most importantly, she said, parents should never put their children on their laps. 

“You wouldn’t do that in the car, so why do it in a vehicle that almost goes as fast and doesn’t have any doors?”

In the coming weeks, Vassy, who is also the coalition leader for Safe Kids Charleston Area – a group that provides resources to assist in keeping kids safe – will be partnering  with the City of Charleston Police Department to create a series of PSA videos on the safest ways to operate golf carts and LSVs. For a full list of rules and regulations surrounding these types of vehicles, visit the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles website.

“We love our kids,” she said. “So let’s lead by example and learn the proper rules for using these vehicles. They can be great fun if we just remember to be smart.”