Last Saturday, a rented golf cart was involved in a marginal incident. The cart sideswiped a car and then left the scene. The accident involved the usual suspects: alcohol, a wild, drunken-ass person, a golf cart, and a car (or truck). The cart driver, Michael Belton of Richmond was arrested for DUI and refusing to take an Intoxalyzer test. Mr. Belton was taken to the county joint Saturday night where, unfortunately for him, the county magistrate does not work weekends. Mr. Belton had to cool his heels in the multi-million dollar county jail over the weekend while awaiting arraignment on the alleged charges.
While the incident was minor, just a busted-up cart and some superficial damage to the automobile, it serves to highlight the implications of allowing golf carts to interact with local, and in many cases, tourist traffic.
Jessica Cicchino, a vice president at the highway safety institute, doesn’t think golf carts should be permitted on roads with cars, “If they get hit by a much larger vehicle, they aren’t going to hold up.”
Cicchino said her group did a crash test in 2010 between an LSV and a Smart car. The driver in the LSV would have suffered serious or fatal injuries, she said. A driver in a regular golf cart would likely be even more at risk.
“They are not crashworthy,” Cicchino said. “An truck or SUV can weigh three or four times as much as a golf cart or an LSV.”
The majority of golf cart accidents or fatalities involve driver negligence, distraction, or drug or alcohol abuse…that goes for the golf cart driver as well. That is just what we are seeing in Cape Charles.
People are on vacation, and while the golf cart may be fun, most have no idea what’s involved, and treat it like a joy ride, and don’t even bother to follow the rules of the road. Or bother to be sober. New cart riders have a false sense of security, and while having fun cruising around, they don’t seem to be paying attention to vehicular traffic. Drivers of larger vehicles are also distracted, and may not be used to driving in a small town with so many blind spots, and have never had to share the road with a golf cart.
Add sun exposure and alcohol and you have recipe for disaster.
Many have already had close calls with carts. It’s just a matter of time before we record a fatality. The town’s lukewarm response to the danger is to increase fines, however, a punitive approach will do little to prevent a major accident. Writing a $250 dollar ticket to a cart driver that runs a stop sign and winds up tangled and mutilated under an F-250 seems like a futile, check-the-box response.
Let’s face facts. The Cape Charles of today is not the same town it was 25 years ago when it voted to allow carts on the road. Not that many people lived or came here. Back then, there were maybe ten carts in the whole town, and just not that much traffic.
Now, the town is full, people are crowding the streets, and cars are whizzing all around. Golf carts do not fit safely into the mix anymore. Golf carts on the roads are becoming more and more ubiquitous in many communities, but so are injuries and deaths from accidents.
Some think it’s charming to have carts zipping around, and it may even be a teaser to bring folks here to vacation. But the reality is that golf carts belong on the golf course, not mixing in traffic with trucks and cars.
It’s time to ban golf carts and get them off the street. There will be some moaning, wailing, and gnashing of teeth from people that have purchased golf carts and chalk it up as a perk of living in this town.
Some businesses may also be hurt, but if it saves just one life…well, you know the rest.
Just as the town did nothing about beach safety until a few kids drowned, it appears to be taking the same laissez-faire approach to golf carts. If the town does nothing, and a person dies, then the mayor and town council will have some explaining to do.
Is stuffing the greasy till worth it?