ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Last year, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office said it responded to 21 crashes involving golf carts. Three people were injured so badly they were incapacitated, and a 47-year-old man died when a golf cart rolled on top of him.
While inexperienced, young drivers were behind the wheel in six of those crashes, the rest -- 15 -- involved adult drivers.
It’s why the sheriff’s office wants all of its residents to understand the risks.
There are three common mistakes golf cart drivers make that lead to crashes.
Director Scott Beaver, with the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, said first, no one thinks they can get hurt in a golf cart.
“They drive them a little more recklessly than they do a regular car,” he said which often leads to crashes.
Second, he said, drivers underestimate the speed.
Third, parents assume their 14-year-old is experienced enough to drive one.
Beaver said the sheriff’s office is working to change that by creating a county ordinance that will require a golf cart driver to be at least 15 years old. State law dictates someone has to be 14 years or older to operate a golf cart.
“We want it (the age) to match the same thing you do to operate a vehicle,” Beaver explained. “There’s a reason that you start driving at 15 years old. You take a driver’s test, you learn the speed limits, the stop signs, the yield signs and you also have to have somebody that is an experienced driver sitting next to you for at least 50 hours.”
As it stands, there are very few rules when operating a golf cart in the state. Beaver said no one is legally required to wear a seat belt when riding in one, there is no limit on the number of passengers, and children are not required to be restrained.
“There are so many variables that lead to disaster and lead to people just taking things for granted, which ultimately leads to somebody getting hurt or killed,” Beaver said.
He also said golf cart drivers are often confused about where they can drive one.
“People think just because it’s a county road that you automatically can drive a golf cart on it and that’s not true at all,” explained Beaver. “You can’t drive a golf cart on a regular sidewalk, either. The only two legal places to drive is a multi-cart path or a roadway that has been designated by the county as golf cart approved.”
If you have any questions about operating a golf cart and the rules of the road, Beaver invites you to call the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office at 904-824-8304.