Golf carts, emblematic of Florida’s lifestyle, are a common sight in retirement communities, beachfront locales, resorts, and now, various residential areas. Yet, beyond their idyllic facade lies a concerning reality. The incidence of golf cart accidents in Florida is escalating, resulting in severe injuries and, tragically, fatalities. Are these seemingly innocuous vehicles harboring more danger than meets the eye? Whether you’re a golf cart owner, operator, or a fellow traveler on the roadways, comprehending the risks and legal intricacies surrounding these vehicles is imperative.


A Mounting Issue

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 13,000 golf cart-related accidents necessitate emergency room visits annually, with roughly 40% involving children under 16. Alarmingly, half of the injuries sustained by children stem from falls out of moving carts. A 2008 report in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine revealed a staggering 130% increase in golf cart-related injuries between 1990 and 2006, totaling around 147,000 incidents involving individuals ranging from 2 to 96 years old.


Why the Surge in Golf Cart Accidents?

The surge in golf cart-related mishaps prompts the question: What factors contribute to the rising toll of injuries in what was once perceived as a carefree mode of transportation? The answer lies in a combination of factors, including the inherent lack of safety features in golf carts, the prevalence of inexperienced drivers, the risk of impaired operation, and their burgeoning popularity beyond the confines of golf courses.


Absence of Safety Features

  1. Unlike conventional vehicles, golf carts typically lack essential safety features such as:
  • Seatbelts, exposing occupants to a heightened risk of ejection and severe injuries in the event of a crash.
  • Airbags, crucial safety devices absent in golf carts, leaving occupants vulnerable to impacts.
  • Sturdy roll cages, with most carts offering minimal protection against rollovers, a common accident scenario.


Inexperienced and Underage Drivers

2. Prior to October 1, 2023, individuals as young as 14 could legally operate golf carts on designated paths. However, the enactment mandated that drivers must be at least 15 with a learner’s permit or 16 with a driver’s license. Inexperienced and underage drivers often lack the necessary judgment, experience, and training for safe operation, rendering them more susceptible to accidents.

Furthermore, some communities still permit unlicensed individuals to operate golf carts in specific areas, further exacerbating the risk of inexperienced drivers on the roads.


Alcohol/Substance Impairment

3. The recreational nature of golf cart use often coincides with leisure activities such as golfing, camping, or attending sporting events, increasing the likelihood of impaired driving. Operating a golf cart under the influence poses comparable dangers to driving a car while intoxicated, including slower reaction times, impaired judgment, and a significantly heightened risk of accidents.


Vehicle Traffic and Unfamiliarity with Traffic Laws

4. In regions where golf carts share roads with traditional vehicles, confusion ensues. Golf cart drivers may lack familiarity with traffic laws and proper road etiquette, leading to collisions at intersections with faster-moving vehicles. Additionally, other motorists may not anticipate the presence of slow-moving golf carts on the road, further escalating the risk of accidents.


Golf Cart Laws and Regulations in Florida

The burgeoning popularity of golf carts as a mode of transportation has prompted legislative measures aimed at ensuring safer operations. Recognizing the need for stricter regulations in light of the escalating number of accidents and injuries, Florida enacted significant legislative changes in 2023 through HB 949, colloquially known as the “Golf Cart Bill.” This legislation introduced several key amendments to the rules governing golf cart usage in Florida, including:


New Age Restrictions

  1. Golf cart drivers under the age of 18 must now:
  • Be at least 15 with a learner’s permit.
  • Be 16 with a driver’s license.
  • Additionally, individuals aged 18 or older must possess a valid government-issued ID to operate a golf cart. This marks a departure from previous regulations that allowed individuals as young as 14 to drive golf carts.


Mandatory Safety Features

2. Any “low-speed” vehicle, including golf carts with a top speed greater than 20 mph but not exceeding 25 mph, must be registered, titled, and insured with personal injury protection (PIP) and property damage liability (PDL) insurance. Furthermore, these vehicles must be equipped with essential safety gear, including:

  • Headlamps
  • Front and rear turn signals
  • Stop lamps
  • Tail lamps
  • Parking brake
  • Windshield
  • Seat belts

For a full list of required equipment, check the FLHSMV website.

Ready to safeguard your rights on the road? Contact KMW Legal today for guidance and protection in your personal injury claims involving golf cart accidents. Your safety is our priority.