An 82-year-old Fort Myers woman was critically injured and later died after being run over by a golf cart operated by a 97-year-old man whose 12-year-old great-granddaughter was in the driver’s seat. She was dragged some 30 feet and had suffered critical injuries to her face and head.

golfcart5-300x200The elderly man was reportedly controlling the wheel and pedals from the middle seat of the motorized vehicle, while the girl was seated where the driver would normally sit.

The incident happened recently inside the gated 55-and-over community of Seven Lakes Golf Club on Cypress Lake Drive. There are only a few streets within the community, which abuts a private golf course, and most residents say anyone whose operating a vehicle through the neighborhood takes it slow. The community has more than 1,000 units, and of those, 60 percent own golf carts to get around within the community.

A manager for the community said the rules on their property require all operators of golf carts be at least 16-years-old.

The crash is under investigation, and authorities have yet to file any charges, though they haven’t taken that possibility off the table.

Under Florida law, golf carts are designed to be used on golf carts. They are sometimes used for certain recreational purposes, but they generally aren’t allowed on public roadways unless certain streets have been approved for such use. Even then, golf carts can’t be operated by anyone under the age of 14 and can only be used during daylight hours. Some communities will allow golf carts to be used at night on certain roadways, but only if they’ve been equipped with certain lighting and reflection equipment.

These vehicles only travel about 20 mph, but that’s certainly fast enough to cause real harm, either to pedestrians or to those who may fall out of the cart. Most people don’t wear seat belts, and the carts are typically only equipped with steering, brakes and rear view reflectors. Some may have more features, but that’s the bare minimum.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports some 13,000 golf cart accidents require emergency room visits annually. Many of the most serious injuries result from people falling out of the carts, though as this most recent incident tells us, that’s not always the case.

Although the issue isn’t studies as heavily as car accidents, we do know from a 2008 analysis published in The Journal of Preventative Medicine that some 150,000 people suffered serious injury either being hit by a golf cart or falling off of one between 1990 and 2006. What’s more, the number of reports of injuries during that time spiked 132 percent. We have every indication that figure has continued to grow since then, as baby boomers are retiring and a greater number of these vehicles are being purchased.

They are especially common in Florida and in Fort Myers, where there are numerous golf courses and gated communities. They are also used at airports, hospitals, sporting events, national parks, college campuses, businesses and even some military bases. In many gated communities, they have emerged as the primary form of transportation.

But they are not subject to any federal regulations, and users don’t even need a driver’s license in order to legally operate one.

If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.

Additional Resources:

Woman hit by golf cart dies from injuries, July 21, 2015, NBC-2

More Blog Entries:

Purscell v. Tico Ins. Co. – Bad Faith Insurance Claim Rejected, July 27, 2015, Fort Myers Golf Cart Injury Lawyer