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Golf carts and utility carts may not be top of mind when you develop your fleet safety plan — but they may pose a greater danger than you think.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission estimates there are 15,000 golf cart-related injuries annually in the United States, according to the CPSC’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.

What is behind the risks?

Golf carts and similar utility carts have unique characteristics and safety requirements. They are often silent when operated, and they are not required to have brake lights, turn signals or headlights to alert other vehicles of their position or intentions. They’re smaller and lighter than cars, often made with fiberglass and few reinforcements. They have a lower center of gravity and provide less protection to passengers. While functional, these features make occupants more vulnerable to injury or accident when riding.

Most golf cart accidents and resulting injuries are caused by carts rolling over, passengers falling or jumping from vehicles, sharp turns, driving on slippery or uneven terrain, or distracted driving.

Golf carts have a lower center of gravity and provide less protection to passengers...these features make occupants more vulnerable to injury or accident when riding.

Preventing golf cart accidents

What can you do to help prevent incidents? Regular maintenance and daily inspection are key. Ensure tires are properly inflated and not worn. Check that the brakes are functional and that forward and reverse gears operate properly. Look at functional and hazard lights and check that the horn and reverse alarm sound properly. Keep appropriate safety equipment on or near your carts to minimize injury in case of an accident.

Safe operation of these vehicles is also vital; here are some tips:

  • Use only authorized, trained and licensed drivers.
  • Keep speeds below 15 mph.
  • Operate within the workplace premises, not on public roadways (except when crossing).
  • Never impede or interfere with normal pedestrian or vehicle traffic.
  • Yield to pedestrians and larger vehicles.
  • Designate parking areas for carts; don’t park in fire lanes, handicapped parking or other unauthorized spaces.
  • Mark the weight capacity if the cart is designed with a bed for hauling and do not overload carts.
  • Charge battery-powered carts in well ventilated areas.
  • Refuel gas-powered carts in areas free of ignition sources and smoking.

Addressing golf carts and utility carts in your comprehensive fleet safety program can help you protect both people and property from more risk than you realize.

Jess Harris, CSP, ARM, CXLT, is Senior Property and Casualty Risk Engineer, Chubb Risk Engineering Services.