A recent trend in the hunting and recreational vehicle market has several companies producing utility vehicles that suffer from serious design flaws. In an attempt to make a quieter recreational vehicle, companies modified the standard electric golf cart platform and transformed it into an off-road vehicle. Although the final product is far quieter than a similar gas powered recreational vehicle, the golf carts were not adequately designed for such uses. These vehicles are produced by a number of companies due to their popularity and are marketed towards outdoorsmen. Examples of some of these vehicles are the Bad Boy Buggy, HuntVe, the Stealth 4X4, The Beast, and Ruff and Tuff Carts. Many other companies are also producing similar vehicles, as well as selling kits that an individual can use to transform a standard golf cart into a utility vehicle with a higher center of gravity. All too often, little to no safety engineering was implemented in modifying the vehicles.
Before being modified, a standard golf cart sits low to the ground, has small slick tires, and has little power. Because of these features, golf carts have a low center of gravity and are not highly prone to rollovers. However, during the transformation into a recreational vehicle, the frame is lifted significantly off the ground, the tire size is increased dramatically, and the tires are more aggressive. These modifications cause the vehicle to have a far higher center of gravity, thereby increasing the vehicle’s propensity to overturn. Most of these recreational vehicles are also given more power, resulting in a higher maximum speed as compared to a regular golf cart. All of these modifications result in a vehicle that is more prone to rollovers. Moreover, these vehicles are marketed as “go anywhere,” “do anything” vehicles, creating a false sense of security for many users.
Despite the rollover hazard posed by these vehicles, it is clear that very little, if any, forethought was put into adding critical pieces of safety equipment. Many of these vehicles were produced without seatbelts and safety nets that would aid in restraining occupants and their limbs in the event of a rollover. A number of these vehicles were also produced without a roll bar or other type of rollover protection. On top of all the potential dangers resulting from a clear lack of safety engineering, certain models of the Bad Boy Buggy have been recalled for unrelated defects.
In 2009, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a recall of approximately 3,900 Bad Boy “Classic Buggies” for accelerating without warning. In 2010, another recall was issued for an even larger number of Bad Boy Buggies alleging similar defects. And in 2011, even more Bad Boy Buggies were recalled due to a defect in the steering assembly arm which could cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle.
As a response to mounting concerns over the compromised safety of these vehicles, many of the companies that produce recreational and off-road vehicles have begun incorporating certain safety devices such as seatbelts, safety netting, and roll bars into their design. However, there are still companies that produce these dangerous vehicles without adequate safety devices and many more that have not recalled older vehicles. Even with the addition of seatbelts, safety nets, and roll bars, the vehicles are still dangerous. The designers and manufacturers of these vehicles need to address the fundamental design flaws that cause the rollover hazards in the first place. These vehicles have injured many people and will continue to injure more until these fundamental design flaws are corrected. If you need more information, please contact Evan Allen, a lawyer in our Personal Injury/Products Liability Section.