Stricter golf cart rules sought following fatal accident
BY SHAMIRA MCCRAY, POST AND COURIER
A Rock Hill woman is calling for stricter golf cart regulations in South Carolina following her daughter’s death this summer. Melanie Popjes died after falling from a moving golf cart while vacationing on Fripp Island last month. Popjes’ husband was driving the cart while she held their infant daughter. “They were just driving down the road, and for some reason, she turned and fell off the golf cart with the baby,” said Dian McDermott, Popjes’ mother. “And of course, she cradled the baby, I’m sure to save the baby. And unfortunately lost her own life.”
Beaufort County sheriff’s Maj. Bob Bromage said Popjes and the baby had already been transported for medical care when deputies arrived at the accident scene.
No charges have been filed by the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office as a result of the accident. The incident isn’t the first involving golf carts in South Carolina. In 2017, a man died after falling from a cart on Folly Beach and hitting his head on the pavement. Last year, a woman in Greenville County had a heart attack and died after crashing a golf cart. Various others have been reported.
“We’ve responded to numerous incidents over the years, and some being fatal involving golf carts,” Bromage said.
These incidents seem to be more prevalent as more golf carts are introduced to the roadways, he said.
According to South Carolina laws, golf carts can only be driven during daylight hours and within 4 miles of the address on the required registration certificate. They can’t be driven on a bike path and should only be used on roadways with a speed limit of 35 mph or less.
To drive a golf cart, people must be at least 16, have a valid driver’s license, proof of liability insurance and display a state permit decal.
In addition to actually seeing these regulations enforced, McDermott said, she wants a seat belt requirement added to the list of rules, especially on Fripp Island, a community about 18 miles southeast of Beaufort with more than 1,400 private homes and villas.
She said the resort’s guidelines for the carts were written in conjunction with the state’s laws, and a seat belt could have saved her daughter’s life.
McDermott said she noticed duringherfamily’svacationlast month that after dinnertime each night, teenagers would overload golf carts and race down Tarpon Boulevard, the island’s main strip.
“And we’d been behind two one day that were side-by-side, and someone was trying to climb from one to the other while they were moving,” McDermott said.
The family has also noticed some four-seat golf carts carrying six and eight people, some climbing on the roof or hanging onto the side, she said.
There is a sign on the island that lists some of the golf cart rules. McDermott said she is going to ask at a meeting next month that the island’s directors enforce the requirements. She also wants car seats to be required on golf carts for children under a certain age and weight.
The board of directors are scheduled to meet Sept. 19, McDermott said.
State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, said requiring seat belts on golf carts in South Carolina is worthy of a debate.
“I can understand why somebody would want to have a requirement if something like this happened,” Davis said.