Golf cart and electric vehicle use is growing rapidly in popularity, especially within gated residential communities. Residents are flocking to their carts to not just get to the golf course, but also to take the kids to the community pool, take in a game of tennis with neighbors and enjoy dinner out at the clubhouse.

But just like any other mode of transportation, operating a golf cart or EV safely is key to reducing your risk of personal injury or hurting someone else. More than 6,000 people are injured in golf cart accidents annually.

Let’s take a look at some important safety guidelines and best practices that can help ensure you reach your destination in one piece.

Don’t Drink and Drive – It is never a good idea to operate your cart or EV after consuming alcohol or taking medications that can alter your alertness or motor skills. Just like driving a car, driving a golf cart while impaired can reduce your reaction time and cause confusion that can result in a crash.

Follow the Speed Limits – Never exceed the speed limits on roads in your community, especially when cornering. Some golf carts have a high center of gravity and can tip over if driven around a sharp corner at an excessive speed.

Don’t Let Underage Operators Drive the Cart – Of the 6,000-plus persons hurt in golf cart crashes each year, over 50% are 12-years old or younger. In most jurisdictions, you must hold a drivers license or learner’s permit to legally operate a golf cart. Even though you think your kids are capable of driving a cart, we all know kids will sometimes not exercise the best judgement or safety practices once they pull out of your garage. Always check your local, county and state laws and ordinances before taking your cart on a public roadway.

Never Overload Your Cart – Some accidents occur when too many people or too much gear is overloading the cart. Carts and EVs are designed to transport a specific amount of weight, whether people or cargo. Adding additional people or loading up that large, oversized cooler improperly can make the difference between a safe trip and a disaster. You should also make certain all of your passengers are seated securely before accelerating, and never use a flatbed or cargo platform for carrying passengers.

Stay Focused on the Road – Never use your cell phone while operating your cart or EV, which can distract you from traffic signs or lights, pedestrians crossing the road and other things that may result in a collision. Even eating the hot dog you bought at the snack bar can take your attention away from driving safely. You should never extend your arms or legs outside the cart’s interior, and always yield to pedestrians.

Be Mindful of the Terrain – Always slow down when going down a steep slope, especially when turning. Don’t expect your cart to perform the same way on a rough road or wet grass than it does on smooth, level payment. Accelerating and stopping your cart should be done in a smooth, fluid movement to avoid passengers and cargo from becoming unstable.

Reaching Your Destination – Once you arrive at your destination, always make sure your parking brake is set in the locked position. You should also remove your keys from the ignition when your cart is unattended.

Equip Your Cart for The Safest Use

There are certain equipment requirements for operating your cart or EV on a public road, and they just make good sense no matter how you use your vehicle. The most important safety equipment that should be on every cart include:

  • Seat Belts for ALL passenger seats – and always insist they are used by everyone
  • Lighting – LED headlights, taillights, brake lights and turn signals
  • Department of Transportation-approved windshield
  • Windshield wipers
  • A horn to notify pedestrians and other carts that you are approaching
  • Rear view mirrors on both sides plus one centered above the passenger compartment on the roof. Just like with a traditional passenger vehicle, making a left-hand turn represents one of the riskiest maneuvers while driving a golf cart. Mirrors allow the driver to see what is behind them and when another vehicle is attempting to pass theirs.

If you own an older golf cart or EV that does not have these critical safety features, there are many aftermarket kits which are not that difficult to install, fit all major manufacturer’s models, make your cart street legal and give you and your passengers added peace of mind.

With the instability in gas prices and people realizing they can keep their car in the garage and get around on their golf cart or EV, the industry is valued at over 2 billion dollars, and projected to continue growing at a compound annual growth rate of more than 4% annually.

Today’s highly advanced carts and EVs are designed much like the finest cars on the road, and operating and equipping yours correctly will help reduce the risk of a serious injury and even death while providing years of enjoyment in personal transportation.