Golf Cart and Low-Speed Vehicle Safety

Golf Cart and Low-Speed Vehicle Safety has been an ongoing and increasing concern in FDOT District Two. These lower-speed vehicles are seen throughout Northeast Florida golf cart neighborhoods and RV resorts. Children are particularly vulnerable and more often injured in golf cart accidents than adults. These injuries include life-altering head, neck, or spine trauma. Compounding the issue, golf carts lack the safety features and protection that regular cars have.

New Florida Law Restricts Teen Golf Cart Drivers

In recent news, the age to drive a golf cart will increase in Florida. Governor DeSantis signed the new bill tightening restrictions for teens driving golf carts on May 11, 2023. It goes into effect on October 1, 2023. Representative Cyndi Stevenson, who represents parts of St. Johns, filed the HB 949 legislation, which The Florida Sheriff’s Association supported.

“As we adopt new options for mobility, safety regulations will also have to evolve,” Stevenson previously told First Coast News. “We are seeing more people in the ER with serious avoidable injuries. This bill is a common-sense way to reduce pain, suffering, trips to the ER, and even loss of life.”

In the new law, a golf cart may not be operated on public roads or streets by a person under 18 years of age unless they possess a valid learner’s driver license or valid driver license. This means a 15-year-old with a learner’s permit may drive a golf cart. Anyone who is 18 or older unless they possess a valid form of government-issued photographic identification. This violation of the law would include a noncriminal traffic infraction, similar to moving violations.

Reference Materials for the Golf Cart and Low-Speed Vehicle (LSV) Safety Discussion

Safety Concerns and Studies:

LSV or Golf Cart Local Guidelines, County Ordinances, Florida Law, and National Education:

Rural RV Community Policies and Information Regarding Golf Cart Rules
IIHS/HLDI Low-Speed Vehicle Crash Tests
FLHSMV’s Guide to Owning LSVs
First Coast News: Should golf cart communities toughen their rules?

Golf Carts and LSVs in the News

E-Bike Safety Discussion

During our March 2023 districtwide engineering concern meeting, we discussed the history of the CTSP and the importance of addressing roadway concerns. This led to issues regarding micromobility, specifically electric bicycles, electric scooters, electric unicycles, and golf carts. We held an e-bike/scooter/unicycle safety discussion for our districtwide meeting in April. Our next districtwide discussion will cover golf cart safety. Undoubtedly, tackling these topics will take a group effort.

Safety Concerns for E-Bicycles, E-Scooters, and E-Unicycles

In 2022, we created a presentation on micromobility, discussing terms, usage, and safety challenges nationally and in Northeast Florida. This general information is a great starting point for our e-devices safety discussion. Please take a moment to review the resource links below. Check out input from CTST member Brian Benwick of the North Florida Bicycle Club. Also, please read the approach to safety written by CTST member Antonia Donnelly.

Reference Materials for the E-Bike/Scooter/Unicycle Safety Discussion –

Amid growing popularity of electric devices, some university campuses are banning e-bikes and e-scooters due to safety concerns – primarily fire hazards and collisions with pedestrians.

E-Bike Insurance by Brian Benwick –

First, one of the main issues involving e-bike use and ownership should be mentioned… LITTLE OR NO INSURANCE. Click here for the Bicycle Floaters Chart. The liabilities arising from at-fault bicycle accidents can be covered automatically under one’s homeowner policy. However, they are not automatically covered if riding an e-bike. Neither the bike shops, parents, nor the kids who ride e-bikes are familiar with this issue. Generally, this makes e-micromobility somewhat of a public nuisance.

Updated 11/29/23: Markel’s specialty program, described in the chart, now has up to $300,000 maximum liability limit. This is good news because now, with the $300,000 limit chosen, your personal umbrella liability policy may recognize the underlying coverage and “dovetail” the e-bike cyclists’ coverage into your excess liability limits, albeit for an extra charge. You will probably need to submit a change application for approval first so that usage, driver information, e-bike policy number, limits and effective dates, along with a description of your e-bike with the serial number can all be reviewed by the personal umbrella underwriter.

Additional Points by Brian Benwick –

Secondly, we must consider the other types of micromobility before we can single out e-bikes for usage restrictions. Among bikes alone are road, mountain, gravel, cargo, commuter, unicycle, recumbent, elliptical, trikes, and more. And each of these categories more than likely has an e-bike version.  Hoverboards, skateboards, golf carts, scooters, segways, roller skates, wheelchairs, and others would also need to be considered.

Helmet requirements are another concern, as head injuries are devastating. Though not required by law, our club (NFBC) requires them for all participating riders, young or old. But I understand the hygiene issues involved in sharing helmets; we all don’t carry helmets with us wherever we go.

Having owned a class 1 and a class 3 e-bike for four years, I’d like to share a few observations:
  • E-bikes are heavy (ranging from 35 -60 pounds or more). This is too heavy for some young kids who cannot manage that kind of weight. So, when they fall on you, they do hurt more.
  • The cheaper brands have components that have not been engineered to withstand the higher torque. They also have rear hub-mounted motors that provide 100% power to the wheel(s), making their acceleration unpredictable.
  • Mid-mounted frame motors usually have torque sensors that are managed by the rider, allowing a greater benefit from the gearing and being more predictable.
  • E-bikes are much more expensive to maintain and repair. The point here being electrifying a bike that uses old and cheap technology is an engineering recipe for disaster when components fail during a ride. (Batteries have burned down apartment buildings in NY, and Raad e-bike bad front brakes have killed the e-bike occupants.)
  • In group rides with pacelines, e-bikes can be helpful when leading the group. They can make drafting easier for those who follow them when confronting wind and hills.
More thoughts about E-Bikes to consider:
  • The more expensive e-bikes have safer and better batteries with smart technology and “blow up” less frequently. But, if they are equipped with traditional drivetrains, they are much more expensive to maintain. Even more than motor vehicles per mile.
  • With a 20-mph maximum for classes 1 & 2, the e-bike rider will get dropped on a group ride where the more athletic non-e-bikers will reach and sustain 22-25+ mph. Getting dropped takes the fun out of the experience for those who bought the e-bike for recovery or are older.
  • Europe adopted e-bikes before the US, and they limit their e-bikes to 15 mph as a standard. I don’t recommend this for the road, but I favor a speed limit for sidewalks.
  • Many e-bikes have 3-5 power levels. Most have motor wattage ratings of 250 watts (1/3 of a horsepower). Some have 500-watt motors and up to but not including 750 watts to fall within the law allowance. To reach a range of 20-40 miles, most will have to limit the power level to avoid a battery discharge. Charging a fully discharged e-bike battery takes 3-4 hours, depending on the charging rate. Batteries can be $750 to $1,500 to replace.

An Approach to E-Bike Safety by Antonia Donnelly –

Problem Statement:

Obviously, the e-bicycle situation is a hot topic. As professionals in the industry, we must take a step back and consider how to improve it. That must start with education. But it’s not just the community’s education – it is educating ourselves on the history, background, purpose, and advocacy. Like it or not, we need to understand and accept all society’s aspects of this mode of transportation.

The laws haven’t been formalized because lawmakers don’t know what they are dealing with. However, check any bicycle injury attorney website; they have already included e-bicycle injury in their portfolios. We can create promotional materials about safety and explain the rules we know about. Specifically the age restriction, speeds, and where the e-bicycle is allowed.

Background:

I have been a triathlete for nearly 16 years and someone who rides a non-powered bicycle in traffic. I learned the things necessary to ensure I don’t get hit by cars, golf carts, etc.  My “ah-ha” moment came after I was knocked off my bicycle while riding in the bike lane of SR 13 in St. Johns County. I was knocked unconscious and had no idea where I was or what had happened. The police report said, ‘I fell off my bicycle’ because no one came forward to say something had happened. 

Of course, kids getting on the e-bicycles have no such history or experience. They don’t understand that cars entering the roads at driveways or intersections can’t often see them. Sometimes, the motorist is hurrying and can misjudge the time it takes the bicycle to close the gap. Especially in Florida, we are constantly mixing users of various machines in the same travel corridors. We all must be more aware of our surroundings. This awareness applies to pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists – we all value life, safety, and property.

Subject Information:

I found some helpful information that can guide us. This is a starting point for the e-bike safety discussion and promotional materials.

The following tips are from the website EbikeSchool.com Electric Bicycle Safety Tips:  
  1. Wear a helmet.
  2. Use your lights. At least front white light and rear red LED light on your e-bike.
  3. Use warning devices (horns, bells).
  4. Ride on the right side of the road, with traffic not against it.
  5. Take the lane and watch for parked car doors opening ahead of you.
  6. Keep your tires properly inflated.
  7. Be a defensive driver – don’t expect traffic to anticipate your movements – slow down in questionable situations.
Safety tips from the North Florida Bicycle Club
  1. Ride predictably.
  2. Watch for road hazards (i.e., wet pavement, objects in the path, pedestrians, or other path users).
  3. Obey traffic laws.
  4. In Florida, the bicycle is legally defined as a vehicle. Bicyclists using a public roadway are considered operators of vehicles and are responsible for observing traffic laws. It is up to motorists and bicyclists to treat each other with care and respect. Adherence to the law is the foundation of respect.
And finally, here are some general guidelines:
  1. Understand where e-bicycles are allowed (sidewalks, multi-use paths, or bike lanes).
  2. Share the space with other users (pedestrians, cars, and other bicycles).
  3. Keep speeds within the limits of the path/roadway.
  4. Know and use hand signals to help traffic know what you are doing (especially when turning).

One thing is for sure; we cannot restrict the sale or use of e-bicycles and e-scooters. Additionally, we cannot task police officers to create enforcement rules about improper use because nothing is written on the matter. At this time, all we can do is come up with safety materials to help parents, students, and other users. Education of the dangers may help limit the number of accidents that could occur.


Click here for Florida Legislation statutes regarding electric bicycles (PDF file).

Inclement Weather Safety

Traffic accidents increase during bad weather. Following the inclement weather safety tips below can reduce traffic-related crashes, injuries, and fatalities on our roadways. These traffic safety graphics, video, and safe driving tips can be shared with your organization and community.

Today’s Forecast Calls for a Safe Drive

Sometimes we have the privilege of preparedness; other times Mother Nature mounts a sneak attack and we encounter a bad storm. Remember the saying “Expect the unexpected?” Knowing how to handle your vehicle in dangerous weather will prevent panic when you are forced into driving in a storm. Become weather-wise by following these simple guidelines:

  • Turn on your lights.
  • Keep windshield wipers on and make sure they are in good working condition.
  • Slow down, but keep moving. Don’t stop unless you can get completely off the road.
  • Minimize lane changing.
  • Stay further back away from the car in front of you.
  • Be careful of large puddles, they can make your brakes less effective.
  • On wet roads, apply brakes smoothly and evenly to avoid hydroplaning. If you do lose control, take your foot off the gas and do not apply the brakes suddenly.
  • Never drive through flood water more than six inches deep. If you encounter a flooded area, turn around. If your car stalls, abandon it immediately and climb to higher ground.
inclement weather safety
inclement weather safety

Northeast Florida experiences many challenging weather conditions that make it a hazard while driving. Thunderstorms and heavy fog are frequent occurrences. Hurricanes are also a significant concern. High winds, wet roads, and low visibility increase the crash risk. Plan ahead and be prepared for predicted storms and hurricanes. Please drive safe and stay off the road during inclement weather unless it’s an emergency.

Links to Safe Travel Information

Driving Tips for Teens

FDOT District Two Community Traffic Safety Program developed ten short videos with driving tips for teens. A series of brief educational and informative traffic safety messages are available to share for National Teen Driver Safety Week and the 100 Deadliest Days for Teen Drivers – and all year long.

According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, in 2021, Florida teens made up nearly 5 percent of Florida’s driving population. However, more than 11 percent of all motor vehicle crashes in Florida involved a teen driver.

Parents, teachers, and caregivers are a great source of driver education, and we hope they share these videos. The highest percentage of our Traffic Safety Team YouTube channel audience (41.6%) is between the ages of 18 and 24, and an ideal place to help educate teens about speeding, distracted driving, and other road rules.

These road rules apply to drivers of all ages, significantly younger inexperienced motorists. The goal is to reduce crashes and eliminate fatalities and severe injuries on our roadways.

Occupant Protection and Distracted Driving Road Rules:

Buckle Up – It Can Save Your Life
Stop Distractions – Focus on Driving

Safety belts save lives! Buckling up properly is the single, most effective way to protect yourself in a crash. Wear your safety belt across your shoulder and your lap. Front seat drivers and passengers AND backseat passengers under age 18 – MUST wear a safety belt (Florida Law!)

Distracted driving is NOT just from cell phones but also includes: talking to passengers, eating, adjusting the radio, reaching for items in the backseat, putting on cosmetics, and anything that takes your attention away from the roadway. Please put your phone down, and focus on driving! In Florida, texting and driving are not just dangerous; it’s illegal.

Bicycle Safety and Motorcycle Driving Tips for Teens and All Motorists:

Bike Safety for Cyclists and Motorists
Please Always Ride Responsibly

Cyclists, please note: Lighting equipment on your bicycle is required at night. Helmets are required for those under 16 years of age. You are required to have properly working brakes. Always ride on the right-hand shoulder of the road. Do not wear earbuds in both ears. Motorists, this is Florida law: When passing a bike on the roadway, you must give three feet when passing. Please watch for sharrow markings on the road – this means that motorists must share the lane with cyclists.

Many factors can lead to motorcycle crashes – not just inexperienced motorcycle riders and motorists – but careless driving. Left turns in front of motorcycles are the leading reason for a crash – 40% of the time. Always look twice and drive with care. Bikes that are over 50cc require an endorsement on your license – Make sure you get the proper training and wear a helmet!

Pedestrian Safety and Florida’s Move Over Law:

Learn About Pedestrian RRFBs
Move Over and Slow Down

Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFB) Tips for pedestrians: Activate the signal by pushing the button. Wait for the lights to flash. Step to the curb and wait for traffic to stop. Cross the road while constantly monitoring traffic. And tips for Florida drivers: If you approach an RRFB and the lights are flashing, and a pedestrian is present, you must come to a complete stop at the stop bar. Remain stopped until the pedestrians are across the roadway. You may proceed with caution after the pedestrians have cleared the road.

Drivers, here is what you need to know about the Florida Move Over Law. This law includes police, emergency, service vehicles, Florida Road Rangers, tow trucks, construction, and other utility vehicles that are stopped on the side of the road and displaying flashing yellow, red, or blue lights. On approach, move over one lane. If you cannot safely move over, reduce your speed by at least 20 mph below. Police are cracking down. You might receive a moving violation if you do not abide by this Florida law

Lane Departure and Intersection Traffic Safety Tips:

Lane Departure is a Leading Cause of Fatalities
Traffic Safety at Intersections

Speeding on a curve is one of the leading causes of lane departure crashes. Never accelerate going into a curve! Release acceleration, coast through the curve, then resume acceleration. Chevrons, rumble strips, barriers, and guardrails are all countermeasures to reduce lane departure. Please drive carefully!

In Florida, intersections are among the top 2 locations for serious injury crashes. When approaching an intersection, be aware of driveway accesses, vehicles that suddenly come to a complete stop, and cars that suddenly change lanes in front of you. When stopped at a red light, check for pedestrians. Yield to pedestrians and bicyclists before turning right. When you see the flashing yellow arrow, yield to oncoming traffic and pedestrians.

School Bus and Railroad Crossing Safety Reminders:

Stop for School Buses
Railroad Crossing Safety Tips

Here are some important railroad crossing tips to keep in mind: Do not drive through, around, or under a railroad crossing gate. Never stop on the tracks. Stay back at least 15 feet from the track. Walking or stopping on the tracks is hazardous.

When the yellow lights begin to flash on a school bus, it is coming to a stop to load or unload students; you must stop and do not pass the bus. Remain stopped until the stop panels are retracted, the door is closed, and the bus begins to proceed. The only time you are not required to stop for a school bus is if you are in the opposing lanes of the bus on a roadway with a raised median or physical barrier of at least five feet or more.

100 Deadliest Days for Teen Drivers

The “100 Deadliest Days” is the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day when fatal teen crashes increase dramatically. Nationwide over 7,000 people died in teen-related crashes from 2010–2019 during this summer period. 

Teens drivers have a higher rate of fatal crashes, due to immaturity, lack of skills, and lack of experience. Teenagers speed, they make mistakes, they wear their safety belts less often, and they get distracted easily – especially if their friends are in the car.

For more information on FDOT Teen Driver Safety and related programs and grants, visit the Safety Office Teen Driver Safety page. Visit the Florida Teen Safe Driving Coalitions’  100 Deadliest Days for Teen Driver’s Page for more.  

Other Important Reminders for Teen Drivers:

  • Reduce the number of passengers
  • Lower music volume
  • Use turn signals
  • Limit driving at dark
  • Obey the speed limit
  • Stop at stop signs and traffic lights
  • Share the road

According to Safe Kids Worldwide, more than half of teens killed in crashes were not wearing a safety seat belt. We cannot say this enough, please always buckle up for every car ride!

Links to Additional Resources and Driving Tips for Teens:

Critical Role in Community Engagement

“Bringing you home safely” has been the District Two Community Traffic Safety Program tagline for 26 years. It continues to be our motto and supports our belief that we are ground zero for Target Zero! Our Traffic Safety Teams play a critical role in community engagement throughout Northeast Florida.

FDOT Secretary, Jared Perdue, stated in his Oct 28, 2022, speech at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Annual Meeting in Orlando, “Communities are our number one priority. Our theme (FDOT) must be community-centric as we are working towards the future.” The Community Traffic Safety Program plays a critical role in the Department’s future and connection to our local communities and our commitment to safety and Target Zero. 

Take a moment to hear Perdue’s community engagement remarks in the video below.

“How do we, as state DOTs, continue to deliver infrastructure and be successful? It is about connecting the dots between what we do to every community we serve,” he explained.

“They desire this engagement, even for something as simple as resurfacing roads,” Perdue pointed out. “If we build coalitions of local support around them, we’ll see the fruits of that labor. We’re also challenging our employees to re-engage with the communities where they live and work, where they reside with friends and families; not just serving them but working more in partnership with them.”

Community Must be Priority Number One

You can learn more about the critical role of community engagement. The history of Northeast Florida’s Community Traffic Safety Teams began in 1994 and has been active ever since. Our members are involved in finding and solving engineering and roadway issues locally. Click here to submit a traffic safety concern. Below is a link to view Perdue’s entire speech and article by the AASHTO Journal.