We live in a community of golf carts and automobiles, a potentially dangerous combination when someone breaks the rules of the road.
Recently, this combination resulted in tragedy, when a car traveling west on State Road 674 struck a golf cart crossing through a green light at the El Rancho Drive intersection. The golf cart rotated and turned over on impact, ejecting its 87-year-old driver. The man was taken to an area hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries later that day. Both drivers were Sun City Center residents. The Traffic Homicide Unit of the Florida Highway Patrol is currently investigating the accident, and charges are pending its findings.
This kind of thing could happen to anyone who drives anywhere in Sun City Center. And it’s not always a car or truck that’s at fault. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had close calls with golf cart drivers who fail to observe stop signs or suddenly cut in front of my car without notice. Admittedly, this happens with other vehicles, but a golf cart is no match for a two-ton-plus vehicle. Because golf carts have no safety features, like crumple zones, airbags or seatbelts, they are especially vulnerable. So whether we’re driving one or are behind the wheel of a vehicle traveling near one, we all must have greater awareness and use more caution. Defensive driving is a must.
According to Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jeff Merry, on average, an accident involving a golf cart is reported “every nine or 10 days” in Sun City Center. Many of these mishaps are minor, but a small accident in a car can be simply disastrous in a golf cart, he said. It’s almost the equivalent of hitting a pedestrian. Anyone driving around or through the community needs to recognize that a significant number of aging seniors driving a vehicle of any kind have failing eyesight, hearing loss and reflexes that aren’t what they used to be.
Now for a kicker.
If you think traffic in Sun City Center is problematic now, get ready for the coming gridlock. Thousands of new homes currently under construction are nearing completion; work on U.S. 301 will eventually be completed, and unless four of our seven county commissioners wake up, more large developments will be approved to the east of us. In addition to the annual increase in seasonal traffic, more and more cars, trucks and semis will be driving alongside us. While all this is happening, Hillsborough County is considering adding more golf cart access in the community.
What this means is we all must become more patient, considerate and mindful drivers. As good neighbors, we owe this to each other to prevent the tragedy that took place here Sept. 14 from happening again. A man died and a woman must live with her part in his demise for the rest of her life. Be careful out there, folks. There but for the grace of God…
Lois Kindle is a freelance writer and columnist for The Observer News. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.