Golf Carts Drive Off-Course, but Not By Seniors

Why do people who could (and should) be walking spend so much time in golf carts? Our wonderful cottage community is a delightful place to live with amazing and thoughtful people who come from near and far to spend time each summer. I think that it is one of the most pleasantly walkable places on earth. But golf carts, with their dust and fumes and unmonitored speeds, are frustrating, and I’ll state right up front that this problem exists in a lot of places, not just where we vacation.

Don’t get me wrong. If one of my parents, now 83 and 88, had a lot of difficulty walking or became disabled and therefore required a golf cart to move around our little community, I’d rent one in a flash. Moreover, just last week my dad needed an ambulance, and I am grateful that rescue squad volunteers used their golf carts to get to him as fast as possible.

But here’s an interesting observation. Many people who use golf carts do not really need them, living as they do in one of the most walkable communities in America. Over our 10-day vacation my parents, and remember that my dad had a mild heart attack about seven weeks ago, have walked and walked using their feet to get around. In fact, the whole family has walked a couple of miles each day since we arrived here at the cottage, and we are all much healthier because of it. We’ve barely used the car.

On most golf carts, instead of seeing older seniors, many of whom walk or even bike, many adolescents, young and middle-aged adults, and unfortunately a few may be middle schoolers are drivers. Few have any disabled passengers on board. Interestingly, only a small number of drivers are aging seniors who really need them for mobility, which is just fine — in fact the way it is supposed to be.

Another interesting development is the increase in golf cart accidents and injuries. This article, Golf Cart Injuries Are on the Rise, appeared in the New York Times in 2008. Here are just a few of the incidents what I observed.

  1. A golf cart with seven kids (and no adults) careening around the corner right outside my front door.
  2. A golf cart with four teenage boys tipping right over near the swimming area. (Does your golf cart have a few new dents?)
  3. A golf cart with a dog that jumped off and ran into a person, knocking down an aging senior, who by the way, was walking.
  4. Golf carts driven too fast.
  5. Golf carts ignoring stop signs.

In a walkable community stretching less than a mile in any direction, most of us don’t need motorized wheels to get where we are going. So why this love affair with golf carts? The above New York Times Well Blog article reported on golf cart injury research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Another article, Far from the Fairways, Unwanted Visitors, describes a New York City community with golf cart dilemmas. Another description of the golf cart research, Hazards: Golf Carts Get Around and Injuries Rise, appeared in the  The Times’ Health Section regular feature, Vital Signs. Finally, here’s a website with golf cart accident statistics at an engineering company. Apparently there are enough serious injuries that this group can serves a an expert witness in court when a golf cart accident ends up in litigation.

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