Every day Kang-ling “Connie” Sun, 79, steps out around 7 a.m. for a morning walk. She’s been trying to take better care of herself since her husband’s death two years ago, she said. To that, her doctor prescribed 10,000 steps a day to help combat her osteoporosis.
Around 8 a.m. Friday, June 1, as Sun paced the sidewalk stretch in the 5500 block of Rayo del Sol in Laguna Woods Village, she was struck by a golf cart. She remembered falling to the ground as the cart “laid on top of her,” while simultaneously ejecting the passenger out of the cart.
“I was shocked,” Sun recalled. “I laid on the floor and thought I was dead already.”
Orange County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Carrie Braun said the accident was the result of the golf cart driver pressing the accelerator instead of the brake, which caused the cart to run up onto the sidewalk and strike Sun.
“The golf cart flipped onto its side, and the victim was transported via ambulance to a local hospital,” Braun said. No citation was issued.
Laguna Woods Village has more than 1,300 registered golf carts, according to the community’s June security bulletin. Residents utilize these vehicles — mostly electric — to get around inside the retirement community and on some public roads outside, former senior public affairs specialist Heather Rasmussen told Pew in 2016
. Their popularity grew when gas prices skyrocketed and has continued to rise due to environmental awareness, she said.
Allowing a golf-cart crossing on Health Center Drive and Calle De La Plata, across Paseo de Valencia, has been Laguna Woods Councilwoman Shari Horne’s personal project for the past few years.
“We have committed to making the city as accessible by golf cart as possible,” Horne said. “Our buses do as good of a job as they can, but subsidized travel is so expensive and people want to maintain independence for as long as they can.”
Over the course of 18 years, Horne said, she’s only heard of two incidents involving golf carts and finds it unfortunate that she has to add to that list.
“There are remarkably few incidents. (The city has) thought about putting bike horns on golf carts to let pedestrians know, but who’s going to police that?” she said. “I would like to have even more golf carts and even more multimodal trails, but it’s important to always go safely and know that the same laws apply. It’s no joke –they can definitely hurt someone.”
By state law, carts may be driven on roads under a 25 mph speed limit; however, the city of Laguna Woods has a municipal code
that allows residents to drive carts on designated sidewalks and across intersections. Within Laguna Woods Village, golf carts have full road access.
Sun said she was taken to the hospital by an ambulance before police could take her statement at the scene. She said she suffered a toe fracture and a concussion.
Ten days post-incident, Sun is concerned about the same thing happening to her neighbors.
“I’ve lived here for six years and I’ve always felt safe, but now I don’t trust anyone,” Sun said. “(The Village) used to be a heaven; now, to me, it’s a hell.”
In this month’s Laguna Woods Village security bulletin, Security Chief Tim Moy provided a list of safety tips for those operating a golf cart:
- If your golf cart is equipped with a seatbelt, use it! Seat belts save lives and could keep you from falling out in the event of an accident.
- Outside the Village within the city of Laguna Woods, stay on designated sidewalks authorizing golf cart use. Do not drive golf carts on roadways unless crossing at an intersection controlled by traffic signals and crosswalks.
- Never drive intoxicated or under the influence of any medication. The rules of driving under the influence are the same for golf carts as for motor vehicles.
- Obey all traffic laws and rules of the road. Avoid distractions and be alert of your surroundings. Remember, you are sharing the road with drivers of larger vehicles who might not be watching for golf carts.
- Slow down and use extreme caution during turns, blind corners, parking lots and intersections.
- Do not text and drive! Pull over and stop if cell phone use is necessary.
- Always yield to pedestrians.
- Drivers and all passengers should keep arms, legs and feet inside the golf cart while the vehicle is moving, except when signaling a turn.
- Always turn and look behind golf cart before backing up.
- Drive only as fast as conditions allow. Reduce speed when driving down hills, during inclement weather, on wet roadways or when visibility is limited.
- Watch for potholes, dips and uneven surfaces.