This driving tip is more than just a stroke-saver

Today’s episode is about driving, but not the type of drives we usually discuss, involving the challenge of hitting a little white ball off a peg in the ground.

That’s hard enough, and it can put you in some scary places if you don’t do it right. But this time, let’s talk about something in our great game that is far more serious: the simple act of driving an electric cart.

I have seen numerous signs at golf courses about cart safety, but I must admit I never took them that seriously. It’s the same as driving a car, I thought. Of course I’m careful! No big deal.

Until now. Until I almost seriously injured a friend and myself simply by taking my mind off what I was doing for a split second.

Here’s the scenario:

I had just hit my second shot on the par-4 fourth hole. He had walked ahead to get a look at what he had left and, as I drove up, was walking over to get a club. He crossed in front of my destination and was standing on the cart path between me and the other cart, which was parked.

He had been driving the cart to that point and had noted that the brakes weren’t working especially well. That was a problem on this course, which is especially hilly.

That certainly was in my mind as I drove up. I wasn’t approaching that fast. I wanted to have plenty of time to stop, especially because it was slightly downhill.

Then it happened.

Let me preface this by saying that I have never had an accident while driving. I once was hit by another car in a parking lot, but I wasn’t moving and it left my car with a minor dent. By the grace of God and by being pretty darn careful, I have been driving for more than a half-century without a single incident while moving.

I always try to feel in control when I’m driving – no unnecessary chances, plenty of room in front of me to stop, don’t go too fast. But now I know how fast it can go awry no matter how careful you are.

The cart wasn’t slowing down enough, and I did something I’ve never done before in all my years of driving – I panicked.

And then I did something I REALLY have never done before: My foot somehow migrated to the accelerator. I still don’t know why. I never will. I pushed it as hard as I was pushing the brake.

As you might guess, that was REALLY BAD.

Quickly realizing that I wasn’t going to be able to stop, my friend leaped out of the way just in time. The vertical bar of the cart struck his shoulder as I went by, and my cart SLAMMED into the other cart. I mean, I hit it HARD. We were amazed there was no damage.

Even more amazing was that there was no damage to either of us.

He figured he might have a bruised shoulder. Imagine if he hadn’t gotten out of the way. That would have meant at least one broken leg, maybe two, if he had gotten sandwiched between the two carts.

And if the other cart hadn’t been there, I probably would have flipped the cart and been seriously injured. I was so discombobulated, I doubt I would have had the wherewithal to get my foot back on the brake.

In the two days since it happened, I have replayed it in my mind again and again. I realize now that driving a cart is not at all like driving a car. A cart is not as stable. It can flip over much more easily. And you’re not wearing a seat belt.

I’ll bet you have similar nightmares if you have been in an auto accident. I have been in only one – I was in the back seat when a friend, driving on the freeway, was going too fast in stop-and-go traffic and plowed into a car that had stopped in front of him.

But now that I have seen what can happen in a golf cart, I will take that type of driving far more seriously. Yes, you’re not going that fast (at least I hope not), but it can happen just as fast as in a car.

Let’s be careful out there. Let’s keep our scorecard clean when it comes to driving a cart. One false move, and it could be far worse than knocking one out of bounds. It might not just ruin a round – it might be life-changing for you or someone else.

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