FRIDAY, June 27 (HealthDay News) -- Using golf carts as an alternative means of transportation is becoming common in some parts of the United States, but it is also leading to an increasing number of injuries, say researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Center for Injury Sciences.
"Golf carts are becoming a popular way to get around in some neighborhoods, particularly for adolescents and teenagers who cannot yet drive a car. A lot of people perceive golf carts as little more than toys, but our findings suggest they can be quite dangerous, especially when used on public roads," Gerald McGwin, associate director of the Center for Injury Sciences and a professor of epidemiology, said in a prepared statement.
He and his colleagues found there were more than 48,255 golf cart-related injuries between 2002 and 2005. The highest injury rates were among males ages 10 to 19 and males over age 80. Fractures and head traumas are among the most common injuries in golf cart crashes.
The study was published in the June issue of The Journal of Trauma: Injury, Infection and Critical Care.
"Some communities encourage golf cart use as a primary means of transportation because of their low emissions, quiet operation and presumed safety. There is little federal regulation, and most states do not require operators to be of a certain age, use any sort of safety equipment, or obtain an operator's license," McGwin said.
Safety standards are needed, he suggested. Companies that make and sell golf carts should be required to provide safety education materials to consumers. Helmets and seat belts should be used, particularly if a golf cart is driven on public roads. When designing golf cart paths, developers need to address safety issues such as gradient, sharpness of curves and proximity to other hazards.
"Golf carts are an attractive transportation solution due to their low emissions and cost effectiveness when compared to traditional motor vehicles. But more stringent safety standards should be applied to the design and use of golf carts, particularly those operated on public roads," McGwin said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have more on golf safety.