Resources & Insights

Golf Cart Accident at U.S. Open Offers Risk Management Lessons

July 16, 2019

I happened to be at the U.S. Open in Pebble Beach, Calif., a few weeks ago when, as you might have heard, a golf cart crashed into several spectators, injuring five.

Talk about a freak accident.

According to the authorities, one of several boxes being loaded onto the cart fell onto the accelerator and sent the cart hurtling into people.

It happened during the second round of play. A vendor had parked the cart near the 16th hole at Pebble Beach and was walking away when the box fell.

“We were standing in the concession line on the 16th hole when all of a sudden there was a runaway cart and one guy running after it, then a bunch of people running after it,” spectator Georgie Salant told “It was actually coming straight for the concession line and then it turned, just on its own, and it didn’t stop. It started driving in circles. It ran over like, five people.”

The incident, as you might imagine, caught the attention of our risk management team.

Did you know that according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, nearly 15,000 golf cart-related injuries occur each year that require an emergency room visit?

Most (85 percent) golf cart accidents result from reckless, negligent, or distracted driving. Intoxication, improper cart maintenance, and storage practices also have contributed to injuries, losses and lawsuits.

So, with all of that in mind, here are a few strategies that can lower the potential risk to your enterprise and improve the safety of your patrons.

  • Before releasing a cart to a customer, insist on a valid driver’s license and credit card. A driver’s license provides some proof that the operator is more than a novice and provides a name to hold accountable for an at-fault accident. A credit card can be a source of recovery for cart damage and may make an operator more careful if they know they are going to be charged for damages caused by careless operation.
  • Post warnings in the pro shop and on the carts indicating safe operation procedures for the cart. Or, print the safe operation procedures on the scorecard if it’s a golf course. Give verbal warnings for any temporary changes to the course or property. It should be made clear that public intoxication will not be tolerated. Other warnings should include speeding and horseplay prohibitions.
  • Maintain carts to manufacturer specifications and keep them fully charged or fueled before releasing to the customer.
  • Cart paths should be paved when possible and wide enough for two lanes in high traffic areas. Post signs warning if the paving ends or if it is a high traffic path.
  • Trim low-hanging limbs and overgrown shrubs back from the cart pathway. Dying or dead trees that have the potential to fall across cart paths should be removed and cut down.
  • Road crossings, steep grades, lower speed areas, and sharp turns should be marked with warning signs. Install barriers where the danger is severe. Instruct drivers to go up or down slopes rather than sideways, which could result in a rollover. All bridges should have bumpers that prevent the cart from going over the bridge edges.
  • Restrict use in rain or heavy frost when the carts are likely to slip or slide on ground surfaces.
  • Keep a checklist for cart inspection on all carts. Correct problems before releasing to the user. Service should meet or exceed the manufacturer recommend standards. Proof of maintenance could be highly important in a personal injury involving a cart, so retain your service records.

Golf carts are essential for most golf courses and recreational properties. Setting some rules, warnings and procedures can help you lower the risk, and provide your patrons with greater safety and your company greater peace of mind.

Spencer Mahoney is a CCIG insurance advisor. Reach him at 720-212-2051 or

CCIG’s risk control and risk prevention specialists will help you review your safety programs, work with you to identify your operational exposures and offer strategic alternatives for avoiding or transferring risk and mitigating losses.

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