Thursday there was a new face in the work session for Lubbock City Council. Tim Siegel, whose son Luke Siegel was seriously injured in a golf cart accident sixteen months prior, prepared a presentation for the council on golf cart safety. Siegel’s family has captured the hearts of thousands of people across the country who have followed on social media as the Siegel’s support Luke through a Herculean recovery.
Tim Siegel has talked for months about wanting to use this platform to advocate for golf cart safety. Now, he said, he is finally ready to urge community leaders to spread awareness about this issue.
According to police reports at the time, Luke was riding in a golf cart with another child on July 28, 2015, traveling around a cul-de-sac at a high rate of speed. The golf cart tipped, leaving Luke with severe lung and brain trauma. After five months in the hospital– first at home in Lubbock and later at Cook Children’s hospital in Fort Worth– the Siegels were able to return home with Luke. Since then, their lives have been busy with medical appointments and therapy for Luke, who still has many limitations.
“He’s a fighter and this has just been and unbelievable sixteen months. And I knew my favorite sports fan who loves baseball, who loves the New Orleans Saints, will probably never be able to throw a ball again,” Siegel said of his son. “I want to be able to help families so this wont happen to them, so their child can throw a ball and still enjoy sports.”
Siegel explained before the council that after the accident, he didn’t like the thought of even looking at golf carts. But eventually, he felt a responsibility to help out other parents. As he looked into data surrounding golf cart accidents, he was stunned.
Among the statistics he cited before council was research by the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System in 2007. The research estimates that between 1999 and 2006 147,696 people were treated in emergency rooms across the U.S. for golf-cart related injuries. Of those people injured, 31.2% were under the age of 16. The study also noted that the number of golf-cart related injuries increased steadily each year.
EverythingLubbock.com asked University Medical Center and Lubbock Police if they kept statistics about golf-cart related injuries in Lubbock, both replied that they didn’t track golf-cart injuries specifically,that golf-cart accidents would be tied into other reports.
Siegel said he’s continued to see unsafe and illegal golf cart use around Lubbock since Luke’s accident. He wants parents and law enforcement to step up in enforcing golf cart safety measures.
“But a question I thought of really from day one is this: if a policeman sees two ten-year-olds driving a Chevrolet, they’re gonna pull the 10-year-olds over, but if you see two 10-year-olds in a golf cart, they’re not gonna pull them over even though there’s a law,”
There are laws in Texas and other states pertaining specifically to golf carts. In Texas, people operating golf carts on public roadways are required to have drivers licenses.
Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope and other council members noted that they have seen unsafe use of golf carts around Lubbock, as well as an increase in the number of golf carts around Lubbock in general. Councilwoman Karen Gibson noted one instance she’d seen where Lubbock Police officers were ticketed individuals violating golf cart laws.
“As we grow, particularly in some of our suburban areas, we have a prevalence of golf carts used as transportation in our neighborhoods, and these golf carts are not your grandpa’s golf cart that you used to keep in your garage,” said Mayor Dan Pope.
Siegel impressed upon the council his concerns about modified golf carts, he explained that the vehicle Luke was injured with was modified and weighed over a thousand pounds. He fears that many parents don’t know the risks that come with the vehicles their children are riding.
“Even if you’re going ten miles an hour and you think you’re careful, you can fall and have catastrophic injuries or even death. I think it’s about education, educating parents to know what exactly they bought, how heavy it is and I think when that happens we’re on the right track,” Siegel said.
He explained that he’s already been meeting with organizations and church groups around Lubbock to share what he’s learned about golf cart safety. Siegel is hoping city leaders will help him to get the message out to the community that golf carts shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Council members at Thursday’s meeting thanked Siegel extensively for bringing safety in these vehicles to the public’s attention. Mayor Pope told Siegel, “I think we stand ready to help you.”
Siegel added that down the line he is interested in changing laws and policies to improve golf cart safety nationwide, but for now his focus is on educating as many people as possible about these vehicles.
Siegel explained that anyone who would like him to present for their organization on these issues can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org . Additionally, he will continue to work with the new Team Luke Foundation, a foundation to assist other families who have suffered traumatic brain injuries.
“I want to be able to help and if I can help one person, one family, then I’ve done my job,” Siegel said.
At the end of the day, Siegel’s advocacy ties back to his love for his son.
“I always talk to my son who, is mild mannered but is one of those boys who has a big heart,” Siegel told the council. “I always thought he was one of those boys who was gonna make a difference in other peoples’ lives and it’s not the way I’d hoped, but he’s certainly doing that now.”