Parents give the thumbs up for golf-cart safety


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Both parents and children alike believe that safety programs are important to make golf carts safe to ride and drive in Viera and Suntree.

Viera Voice Jill Blue Gaines

Golf carts are a popular mode of transportation among teens in Viera and Suntree. But, how safe are teen-driven golf carts?

In a recent presentation at Golf Carts Unlimited in partnership with The Avenue Viera, participants learned that golf carts are only as safe as the drivers, many of whom are not old enough to have a valid driver’s license.

Deputy Brett Moore of the Brevard Sheriff’s Department gave an in-depth presentation about golf cart safety. To start things off, Moore pointed to a shiny new golf cart and posed a question for the audience.

“What makes this golf cart safe?” Moore asked. “There is absolutely nothing safe about this golf cart. It’s the person behind the wheel that will create the safety of this golf cart.

Being aware of pedestrians and bicycles, using rear-view mirrors and having reflective warning devices are essential as golf-cart drivers share sidewalks. Golf-cart drivers must yield the right of way to pedestrians and bicyclists, Moore stressed. But when crossing intersections, it is the golf-cart occupants who are most at risk.

“You have no doors, you have no bumpers,” Moore said. “You have no protection. Especially for young people, you need to think about that. Even though you might be right (in an accident), it’s you who goes to the hospital.”

Although seat belts are not required in golf carts, Moore recommends having them and using them. Rockledge Rotary Club president Mark Turner added to the presentation by reviewing the importance of properly maintaining brake efficiency, proper air pressure in tires and adding safety features to golf carts.

“I have seen many facial injuries from this glass,” Moore said, pointing to the golf cart’s glass windshield. “When you slam on the brakes on a golf cart, your passengers will go forward.”

Common golf-cart injuries are sprains, strains, fractures and lacerations, according to golfcartsafety.com. However, more severe injuries do happen. Moore said that he has seen multiple occupants air lifted out of golf carts.

The Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) provided some of the safety information used during the presentation. Participants received packets containing golf-cart rules and regulations. In Viera, golf carts are allowed on the sidewalks, superseding state law in which they are prohibited.

“We were very excited about Golf Carts Unlimited going forward with this and being involved in the community from a safety standpoint,” said Kim Smith bicycle/pedestrian education coordinator for the TPO. “We hear a lot about golf-cart safety issues around the schools and in Viera. We wanted to come and show our support.”

Golf-cart road rules are tricky and, since Viera is experiencing rapid growth, signage is not always accurate. It is incumbent upon golf-cart drivers to know area regulations before they get behind the steering wheel. Moore stressed that golf-cart drivers need to get to know the rules for schools, the Avenues and other shopping centers since guidelines tend to vary at different locations.

“If you are in a golf-cart community and the signage is there (at an intersection), you can cross,” Moore said. “If there is no signage, you cannot cross. Wickham Road cannot be crossed in a golf cart, because it is a state road.”

Moore livened things up outside when he took the wheel and demonstrated what golf-cart drivers should not do, which drew laughter from the audience as he took a few alarmingly sharp full-circle turns. In reality, of course, avoiding sharp turns is crucial to safety. Some studies using golf carts and child-size crash dummies suggest that many ejections occur during left turns.

Attendees at the workshop agreed that it was worthwhile.

“This course is as valuable for children as it is for parents,” said parent Mike Stroface. “I think it was great.”

Stroface attended the safety seminar with his daughter Hannah, a ninth grader at Viera High. Hannah participated in the presentation with the deputy as he reviewed safety measures. Hannah is 14 years old, which makes her eligible to drive a golf cart.

“I wanted her to take this course before we let her drive to Viera High,” Stroface said. The biggest thing I see around here is when (kids) are heading home from school, lots of kids jump on a golf cart.”

The number of people per golf cart limit for a standard cart is four. And the maximum operating speed for golf carts is 20 mph. When operated at speeds surpassing 20 mph, golf carts are considered low-speed vehicles and the rules change. At speeds of more than 20 mph, drivers must have a license and are not permitted on sidewalks.

“I thought it was very worthwhile,” said Dr. Rita Jain, a parent. “It helped that they used people from the audience for the demonstration. We learned a lot.”

Jain attended the event with her son Sunil, who drives a cart to Viera High each day. At Viera High, there is a specific area for golf-cart drivers to park on campus. High school students must present proof of insurance, photo identification and golf-cart ownership.

“We want to keep our kids safe,” said Rob LaMarr, a Rotary Club member. “We plan to have quarterly presentations on golf-cart safety throughout the community.”

The presentation was a joint effort by the Brevard County Sheriff’s Department, local rotary clubs, Golf Carts Unlimited and The Avenue Viera. Volunteers from the Interact Club of Rockledge High helped during the presentation. Additional workshops are in the works, including at least one at Viera High.

“I think the message for golf-cart users is just like the message for everybody else who drives.’’ Smith said. “We have to understand there is one transportation system, and we need to respect other users.” 

For information, go to facebook.com/golfcartsunlimited