Siegel family, doctors push for golf cart safety ahead of awareness month

Published: Jun. 28, 2022 at 7:25 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - This year, UMC has treated twice as many patients for ATV and golf cart related injuries, pushing the City of Lubbock, doctors, and the Siegel family to fight for awareness.

Tuesday, the City continued its tradition of declaring July as Golf Cart Safety Awareness Month in Lubbock, with Mayor Tray Payne reading the proclamation.

Tim Siegel’s son, Luke, was paralyzed after a crash in 2015 and died from COVID pneumonia last year. Since 2018, he’s been raising awareness about golf cart safety, and raising funds for children who’ve had brain injuries.

“When this happened to Luke seven years ago, I was unaware that this family owned the golf cart, but for me now it’s just making sure that people understand that I’m just here to, if I can help save a life, save an injury, save a brain injury for one family, then then I’m doing a good thing,” he said.

Siegel says when he’s talking about golf cart safety, he’s really focused on modified golf carts on city streets. He says they’re taller, faster, heavier, and can tip over.

“I definitely don’t want to come across like you should never get on one, I just want to bring awareness to being more safe, being more careful, that’s the important thing,” he said.

Golf cart and ATV safety awareness is even more important this year. Through the month of May, UMC has treated 37 patients for ATV crashes, up from 17 during the same time frame last year. 14 of this year’s patients have been kids, twice as many as last year. Golf cart crashes are included in those numbers, but Sharmila Dissanaike, Chair of Surgery at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, says they are less common.

“But a lot of people, especially children who are on ATVs and golf carts are wearing no protective equipment, whatsoever. And so they can actually get quite badly injured even if the vehicle is not going that fast,” she said.

No matter the speed, it’s against the law to drive a golf cart or an ATV on a public road in Texas without a driver’s license. Attorney General Ken Paxton released that opinion last year, but Siegel says it needs to be enforced.

“The majority of states, including Texas, Texas requires a driver’s license to be able to ride a golf cart on a city street. But how many police stop children when they see that? I would say very few, if any,” Siegel said.

Siegel says he sees children driving golf carts every day in Lubbock, calling it an epidemic.

“There’s so many on the road. It’s taken the place of bikes, it’s taken the place of walking, it has taken the place of just being around kids. You see it all the time. I see it and I always cringe when I see it, not because I’m thinking about my son, because I know what could happen in an instant,” Siegel said.

Dissanaike says many ATV crashes happen when too many people are on one vehicle, or parents are carrying their young kids in their lap. She says from a trauma surgeon perspective, she says it’s important to remember kids can have fun doing many things, and don’t have to pick the most dangerous ones. She says the brain of a child is not developed enough to make wise decisions, so parents shouldn’t expect them to be able to if they’re out driving ATVs and golf carts with their friends. She says common sense safety measures can go a long way.

“That could include always having an adult so people are not going too fast or on very uneven, dangerous terrain. It could involve wearing a helmet if you are going to be on a motorized vehicle, I think that’s a very reasonable thing,” Dissanaike said.

The Siegels continue their mission to raise awareness and funds through Team Luke Hope For Minds. The foundation supports children with all kind of brain injuries, emotionally and financially.

“I know that keeping his legacy alive is without question my number one priority and by helping others, I’m doing that. The main thing is, Luke’s in my heart and I know that together we, Luke and I, are helping families throughout the country.”

The nonprofit is on track to give more than $800,000 this year.

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