Sheriff’s office: 13 golf cart deaths in past seven years ’13 too many’

There have been 13 golf cart fatalities in the past seven years in The Villages, and for Sgt. Robert Siemer of the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, that’s 13 too many.

In an attempt to spread the word about the need for golf cart safety, he presented information on the topic Monday afternoon at the Belvedere Public Library.

Francis Hughes died when his golf cart collided with a van Jan. 13 on Morse Boulevard.
Francis Hughes died when his golf cart collided with a van Jan. 13 on Morse Boulevard. He had not been wearing a seatbelt.

Interest was intensified because of a serious golf cart accident reported the very same morning, in which the driver was trauma alerted for a head injury after being ejected from her cart.

You can read about that accident here:

http://villages-news.com/golf-cart-driver-suffers-injury-in-crash-on-multi-modal-path/

He said golf cart owners can take steps toward ensuring their safety.

“Cart owners don’t install seatbelts, or if they have them, they don’t always use them. Every one of these fatalities involved a person being ejected from a golf cart, with their heads hitting either the pavement or a tree. There are no fatalities on record in which the driver was wearing a seatbelt,” Siemer said.

Golf cart manufacturers don’t install seatbelts as standard equipment, Siemer explained.

“In ‘complete rollover’ accidents, golf cart roofs have caved in, causing ‘crushing’ injuries — which might render the manufacturer legally liable,” Siemer said. “However, in our experience, golf carts tip over, but rarely, if ever, roll over completely — so installing and using seatbelts would seem like a prudent thing to do.”

He also warned that speed is a major factor in golf cart accidents.

“We have recently stepped up our road patrols and handed out many citations. But we can’t be everywhere all the time — and we ask  the public to exercise better judgment and common sense — to slow down and drive more safely. Personal responsibility is the key. The tickets are very expensive — and entail a criminal offense — a misdemeanor. You must go to court and can even face jail time,” he said.

He warned that golf cart operators need to stop at stop signs, use turn signals and keep it at or under 20 miles per hour.

“Many older people here have decreased eyesight, bad hearing, and take medicines,” said Cindy O’Lear of the Village of Sabal Chase who was at the presentation. “And of course, there’s Happy Hour. I avoid driving my cart in the evenings, especially around 9 p.m., because you don’t know how many drivers have been drinking.”

The sheriff’s office has been cracking down on drunk drivers, both in golf carts and cars, Siemer said.

“If you are driving, you shouldn’t drink; and if you drink, you shouldn’t drive. That goes even more so for cart drivers, because in an accident, the smaller vehicle is the most vulnerable — it sustains the most serious damage and its driver the most injury,” he said.

Sgt. Robert Siemer talked about the Vial of Life program.
Sgt. Robert Siemer talked about the Vial of Life program.

Siemer also touched on a few of the other programs offered by the sheriff’s office:

Vial of Life. This program offers a form to list residents’ health conditions, allergies and medications. The form goes into a medicine vial in the refrigerator, and a bright chartreuse sticker on the home’s front door, and also the refrigerator exterior, alerts paramedics to look for that critical information. “In an emergency,” Siemer said, “seconds can count, and the vials provide needed information immediately — without the first responders having to search medicine cabinets or ask  a lot of questions. We don’t have statistics on it — but this has been a life-saving program.”

Peace of Mind. This program provides for daily telephone contact with sheriff’s office volunteers to check on elderly people who live alone. If residents are not heard from, specially trained deputies check their homes.

Code Red. This program can contact 60,000 area telephones per hour with severe weather and other warnings.

Home Safety Check. Another free community service from the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office is the Home Safety Check.  Deputies are available on request to evaluate homes, inside and out, and recommend measures to better safeguard the property — including better door locks, window devices, lighting and shrubbery.

Learn more by visiting the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office website at http://www.sumtercountysheriff.org/