News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 8, 2013

After golf cart accident, girl in good condition

Golf carts not permitted on public roads in Vigo County

Lisa Trigg
The Tribune-Star

PRAIRIETON — A Prairieton child was reported in good condition Monday at an Indianapolis hospital after being injured in a golf cart accident on Sunday.

The 5-year-old girl sustained a head injury when she fell from a golf cart driven by her 11-year-old sister.

The Vigo County Sheriff’s Department said two children were riding on a public street in their neighborhood when the 11-year-old drove the cart through a pothole in the road to splash water.

As the golf cart approached the water, the 5-year-old girl suddenly stood up, police said, and when the golf cart hit the pothole, the jarring motion caused the child to fall from the cart. She was then struck by the moving cart, police said.

The older sister ran home to get assistance for her sister. The child was transported to an area hospital then airlifted to Indianapolis for treatment.

The golf cart was owned by a friend of the children’s mother, police report, and the children were reported to have driven the golf cart through the area many times in the past. The pothole that jarred the cart was hidden by a larger pool of water on the surface.

Travel by golf cart on a public road is not permitted in Vigo County. An Indiana law that went into effect July 1 allows cities, counties or towns to adopt a traffic ordinance concerning the use of golf carts or off-road vehicles on locally controlled streets. Some communities have already adopted local ordinances; however, Vigo County does not have that ordinance, according to Vigo County Commissioner Mike Ciolli.

The state law, which is IC 9-21-1-3.3, also requires the driver of a golf cart — where allowed on a public road — to meet Indiana driver’s licensing requirements.

That means that a child younger than age 15 without a learner’s permit cannot drive a golf cart on a public road, even when a local ordinance has been adopted. Only a person holding a valid driver’s license is allowed to drive a golf cart on a public road, if allowed by local ordinance.

The Vigo County Sheriff’s Department has forwarded information about the accident to the Indiana Department of Child Protective Services as a standard procedure, and police are awaiting the result of that CPS investigation.

Chief Deputy Clark Cottom said that allowing an unlicensed child to operate a vehicle on the street is dangerous for the child.

“I wouldn’t think that a child would be properly briefed on proper roadway conduct,” Cottom said. “That’s why it’s so dangerous for small children to drive on a roadway.”

He did note, however, that an unlicensed person can operate a vehicle such as a golf cart or off-road vehicle on private property without violating the state law.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.